Advent Prayers, 18 December
O Adonai, Ruler of the house of Israel.
you appeared to Moses in a flame of fire,
and gave him the law on Sinai:
come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.
Let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an everlasting stream.
Embedded deep in our faith – deep in all the ancient religions – is the practice of hospitality. Abraham’s hospitality to angels led to Sarah’s laughter and descendants as numerous as the stars. The raven’s hospitality sustained Elijah in the desert and kept prophecy alive. Joseph’s hospitality gave Jesus a place to grow; and Jesus’ own hospitality, to the poor and the outcast, turned the world upside down.
Some people seem to take to hospitality naturally. I am always a bit envious – and deeply in awe – of those who can manage to surround their kitchen table each day with whomever is passing, whomever needs a friend. Meal after meal, and pot after pot of tea are offered, without apparent plan or concern for time. Their openness to the moment speaks of the grace of God. And there, I laugh at the happy chaos of it. It is delightful to find the hen roosting atop a pile of cookbooks, and the cat curled in the chair. It is fine that the papers are everywhere, and half the table is given over to painted stars. What could be better, than to join life in the midst?
But seldom, when I turn to my own house, do I use the same generous eye. In my head, I see a perfect table: candle-lit flowers and warm bread. But usually, the mess is still growing when – oh, help: there’s the door.
The enemy of hospitality is perfectionism. Christine Pohl puts it like this: “If we wait until everything is perfect, we’ll rarely offer anyone welcome, and when we do, we are likely to be exhausted.” (Living into Community, p. 166) Mary was not ready for Gabriel – but her wild ‘yes’ made her host to God.
As Christmas approaches, the question of hospitality surrounds us. With whom will you share your table? With whom will you share your time? With whom will you share your wealth and your laughter? How will you be Christ today?
Today we pray for The Fenside Society, which helps churches and local groups to work more effectively for social justice and community cohesion. Pray for all who are involved, that they will have the generosity of spirit to make others welcome, and be open to the unexpected ways of God.
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