Jesus told this story: “A certain man hosted a large dinner and invited many people. When it was time for the dinner to begin, he sent his servant to tell the invited guests, ‘Come! The dinner is now ready.’ One by one, they all began to make excuses. The first one told him, ‘I bought a farm and must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I bought five teams of oxen, and I’m going to check on them. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ When he returned, the servant reported these excuses to his master. The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.’ The servant said, ‘Master, your instructions have been followed and there is still room.’ The master said to the servant, ‘Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’” -Luke 14:16-24
This week we light the candle of love on our Advent wreath. It’s hard to think beyond loving the regular people we include in our Christmas festivities. Especially if you have plenty of family, the house seems filled with people to love! But as I ask people what they are doing for Christmas, I’m struck with how many people do not have any particular place to go or people with whom to spend the day. Thinking beyond my typical circles of people I hang out with is a spiritual discipline I’m working on. After all, Jesus teaches us to go to the highways and byways and alleys to pick up dinner guests!
So this year for Christmas we invited our neighbors over for dinner. (We found none of them in the alley, the front porch worked fine). We invited 10 households and 8 of them came. I don’t think that has ever happened to me before! They came and said things like, “I’ve lived here 15 years and this is the first time I’ve met my neighbors!” The soup was too salty and the house wasn’t glove-test clean. But, the fellowship was immediately warm and the homemade cookies our next-door neighbors brought made up for anything not perfect.
What especially got me was that our neighbors who had moved here from another country said they wished we’d done this get together years ago, because adjusting to another culture had been tough for them. They could’ve used some friends!
So let’s love in ever-widening circles until at last we are all united in God’s graceful presence. Looking for who is missing seems to be something the Jesus we welcome would do.
with children: Set up a playdate for after Christmas with a friend you haven’t invited over before.
prayer: O Coming Christ, teach us to love.