He was smiling ear to ear when I opened the door. “What’s up? Why the big smile?” I asked. “I did it!” he replied. “Did what?” I asked. “I overcame my fear of your door!” he said triumphantly.
As it turns out, this young man had been coming over to visit another young friend who was living with us at the time. Every time he arrived he would stand out on the sidewalk and text his friend inside our house to come out and get him. I had no idea this was going on.
“What do you mean, you overcame your fear of our door?” I asked. “Your house scares me,” he said. “It’s so peaceful.”
As we talked further I learned that life was not so great at his house, and he never had experienced such peace just coming into someone’s home. It was such a foreign experience for him that he didn’t know how to respond.
I think back on this story as I’m reflecting on our theme “Entering the world with Jesus, in our homes”. What does it look like to welcome Jesus into our home? I imagine it means that people who enter will discover peace. Our home isn’t always a place of peace. It’s often chaotic. And now that our oldest son, his wife, and our seven-month-old granddaughter are also living here, it seems the activity never ceases. But we’re still a house of peace. Why?
Shalom is at the root of our English word, peace. It is not just safety, but also flourishing, wholeness, and abundance. If Jesus, the prince of Shalom, enters our homes, what does that mean for others who pass through our doors?
One of the areas my wife and I have worked to cultivate in our lives is being open and welcoming. This begins by affirming through our actions and interactions that the image of God is present in all people. We all need that image to be coaxed out of its shell, some more than others. All of us are a reflection of God’s image waiting to be more fully revealed.
This is our desired attitude. Sometimes we live into it well, other times not so much. But a house of peace, of Shalom, is a place where everyone is welcome and everyone is encouraged to grow more fully into who God created them to be.
There is a Celtic belief that we are to be God’s words spoken back to God through our lives.
Like each of us, Jesus came as a unique person enfleshed to bring Glory to God. He was likely born in the in-house stable area of an extended family member’s home. This would have been a Jewish family with all the do’s and don’ts of any good Jewish family. Although the stable area was a distinct part of the house, it was still part of the house.
Now imagine when the Shepherds arrived. Those smelly outcasts of Jewish society. They were welcomed in to greet the baby. Jesus was already changing the expectations of welcoming others into our homes — even those who make us uncomfortable.
The circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth foretell the purpose of his coming. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus stood in the temple and read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Echoing Mary’s song of renewal and release, Jesus declared the year of Jubilee had finally arrived. Those held in bondage would be set free, debts would be forgiven, restoration and healing were at hand.
Welcoming Jesus into our homes is not just about being open to everyone who comes in, but also about actively standing with them through the process of wholeness. We become conduits of God’s healing presence. We become advocates and friends to those who enter yet are bound up by fear, hatred, anger, and deep wounds. Entering the world with Jesus is to allow Jesus free reign in and through our lives when the world enters our homes.
I write this knowing full well that I have not even come close to living fully into this vision. But this is the beginning of another season of Advent, another opportunity to reflect on the coming of Jesus – Jesus revealed in the world now through the lives of his followers. It might be easier to lament my failings, but how much more welcoming to Jesus would it be to embrace his incarnation as an invitation to love more deeply all who come into my home?
The Word made flesh spoken back to God through homes and lives filled with shalom.
This is my Advent prayer.