Stop and thank God for being present with you today. Ask for God’s guidance as you hear God’s voice through scripture and the writer.
Romans 15:4-13 (NRSV)
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
“Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name”;
and again he says,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him”;
and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In 2011, I experienced my first Thanksgiving in the United States. I traveled for 12 hours with my friends Courtney and Brandon to Courtney’s home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was excited to experience the iconic, but foreign, traditions that I had only seen in movies, but I was also nervous. The holidays are family occasions; that year Courtney’s family would have a Northern Irishman crashing the party.
When we pulled into the drive of the ranch-style home, Courtney’s mom came out to meet us with her husband, Brett. The four of them exchanged hugs and then turned their attention to me. Before I even had time to extend a hand or consider how to introduce myself, Brett walked over to me and threw his arms around me in such a warm embrace that I forgot that he was a stranger. I instantly went from intruder to insider, from guest to friend, experiencing the beautiful gift of hospitality.
Hospitality ought to be a central theme of the Advent and Christmas seasons. We prepare to welcome the one into the world for whom the world had no room. The holy stranger had to settle for a stable and a manger. The one for whom there was no room is the one who creates space for all people, who welcomes us into the community of God. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you.”
God, you are the Host, the One who creates space and welcomes us into the great story and mystery of Creation. When you came in flesh, you found no room and no place in your own creation, but your arms are open wide, welcoming us home and into the family. Help us to prepare to welcome the stranger as you have welcomed us, to extend the invitation to all persons. Let us find a home in you, and provide a home for others. Amen.
Go with God.