With Christmas just a few days away, many of us are preparing to open our homes and welcome friends and family to our tables. This is a season when hospitality finds its way onto our to-do lists… but is that where it belongs?
One of the very earliest stories of Jesus’ life on earth took place before He was born. Having just been told by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive and bear the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38), Mary hurried to her cousin Elizabeth’s home.
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1: 39-45
Given Mary’s haste and the lack of long distance communication, unless God had told Elizabeth, Mary’s appearance was unexpected. Scriptures do not tell us whether the Lord had prepared Elizabeth for Mary’s visit, but Elizabeth’s reaction to her cousin’s appearance was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. Her heart and home were wide open to the young girl who showed up on her doorstep.
How do you envision hospitality? Is it defined by matching tableware and a pristine home?
How do you think God defines hospitality? The Greek root word that we translate as hospitality is philoxenos, which comes from the words philos (brotherly love) and xenos (stranger.) Hospitality in Greek literally means to show love to a stranger!
Elizabeth’s enthusiastic welcoming of her beloved guest is a perfect demonstration of the heart attitude to which hospitality calls believers. We welcome all who come to our doors with love. Elizabeth knew Mary, and you will probably know the guests who are coming to your home this week. Perhaps you will even be blessed with the opportunity to show hospitality to a stranger.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2
No matter who graces your doorstep, it is a heart of love that God asks of you in receiving each person. Elizabeth set an example of hospitality that is worthy of emulation:
- an enthusiastic and loving greeting
- recognition of the privilege of receiving visitors
- every effort to bless guests
You and I won’t be hosting the blessed mother of God. But each person who walks through our doors is precious in the sight of the Lord. Our attention to each individual’s needs is not mundane – thought it may seem so now. When we take the time to cherish others and serve them, we are giving them the greatest gift – love. And when we love others we are obeying God. Your heart’s hospitality has eternal impact, both for your guests and for you.
Do you think you can take hospitality off your to-do list this Christmas? Take off the burden and the long list of “musts?” Scratch dusting the baseboards and ironing the sheets. Instead open your heart. True “better homes and gardens” are loving homes filled with open hearts that welcome all.
Prepare, for your guests, yes. Prepare your hearts. Prepare to love, and prepare to welcome with joy the babe Who came to save us all. Prepare Him room!
Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.