One of those listening [to Paul and Silas] was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in fine purple cloth from the city of Thyatira who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s preaching. After she and her whole household were baptized, she invited us to her home.”
-Acts 16:14-15

This Advent/Christmas Season we are invited to open our homes and our hearts to God. It is often the practice at the Holidays to be with family, to eat together and exchange gifts and have fun. There is something so inviting about being in a warm home, with fun and laughter and good food. This opening of your home, of offering food and welcome, of giving warmth in terms of temperature and temperament—this concept in the Bible is called Hospitality. The Advent Season has been one of not only welcoming Christ
into our homes but of opening homes to practice this mark of God’s people just as the lights and gifts are.

Unfortunately for many this does not describe the reality of the Holidays. It is a fact of our human lives that the warm, inviting home is not always the case. Perhaps it is an empty nest as Heather and I are getting closer to experiencing after the kids leave and go their own way and are scattered around the country or world. Or maybe it is the death of loved ones that provided warmth and whose absence is more intensely felt at the Holidays—grandmothers and mothers and fathers and children. Or maybe it is the effect of the darker days and colder temperatures that cause a depression or seasonal affect disorders. And at times it might be family troubles or abuse that prevent a family from gathering without fighting or tension. Of course lack of economic resources caused by poverty or illness or even such drastic things as warfare or oppression can deprive us of heat or food or even a home. But still the image lingers and resonates—a warm home with family and food and laughter. The essence of Hospitality is welcome which shows us a deep sense of Belonging.

What if we are meant to create that environment of warmth and welcome all year? What if it is not just for our family of origin or marriage? What if the family of God of which we are a part is radically bigger? How do we truly and fully show the Belonging that is REAL and for all in Jesus? Lydia did not know Paul or Silas or Timothy or Luke. She did not have any obligation to invite them home with her, to be a part of her household. Yet that is exactly what she did. On her baptism, on her birth into Christ’s very family, she embraced the Spirit of Hospitality and brought these fellow believers into her home. This home by the way became a congregation and a center for Paul’s further ministry in Philippi, bringing many to know Christ through such simple acts as inviting them in for dinner or letting them know that they truly belonged.

This Advent, consider how you can show this radical Hospitality like Lydia did. In what ways can you open your home? Instead of grand gifts why not consider gifts more missional in nature like the alternative gifts at the church. Maybe send personal notes connected to the specific card recipient and not just photocopied ones to everyone on your card list. Invite those you know are alone for the Holidays to share it with you. Find those in need and provide for them. Show some understanding of those who do not find joy or cheer. Bring cookies to all your neighbors, then bring some to the County Jail or the Discovery House (a half-way house for those overcoming addiction or criminal backgrounds in Spirit Lake) or the Nursing Home and if you can actually talk to the folks and EAT WITH them. There are many others ways to show hospitality. Our challenge is of course not to only do that at the Holidays, but all the year. Let’s share that with each other that Hospitality might spread throughout the area and folks of all sorts will know this truth of God at the core of Advent and Christmas—in Christ we all belong, we all are loved, we all are family.

- Pastor Tim

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