Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
As the days shorten and calendar pages are turned, thoughts of holiday celebrations begin to occupy our minds. Amidst your planning may I pose a question—who will comprise your holiday guest list this year?
Before you respond, consider these thoughts:
Holidays can be painful times for those without extended family in the immediate area.
It was October of my eighteenth year of life when my Dad stepped into eternity. As a college freshman I not only had to deal with my own grief, I also was faced with the responsibility of helping my mother adjust to a new lifestyle.
When Dad died, Mom not only lost her husband of thirty years, she also lost her circle of friends. Suddenly the married couples—my Dad was the first of their group to die—didn’t know what to do about Mother. So they did nothing. I believe that her grieving process was extended because of their withdrawal, even though she and Dad had enjoyed their fellowship for years.
Our plight was magnified by the reality that we did not have extended family and I was an only child. Frankly, the outlook for the holiday season appeared pretty dismal!
What are the dimensions of your “hospitality borders?”
As the holidays approached, our neighbors, who embraced a different faith than my family, graciously invited us to share their Thanksgiving celebration with them. The sincere invitation, their effort to fold us into their family, and intentional conversation that focused on recounting the blessings of the year as well as looking forward to the next year turned a potentially miserable day into one of joy.
The focus on the Lord’s provision for us through the hospitality of our neighbors (Phil. 4:8-9, 19) soothed our grieving spirits. Are your hospitality borders broad enough to include those you may not know well?
A journey through Scripture offers a word portrait of biblical hospitality.
John 14:15 and 21-24 clearly tell me the primary evidence that individuals are Christians and that they love their heavenly Father is their choice to obey His commands. Though we live in a world that promotes “have things your own way,” I learned that to please my heavenly Father I need to respond to all of His instructions with an obedient spirit, not just pick those that appeal to me—and that includes my response to what His Word teaches about hospitality.
Romans 12:13b says I am to practice hospitality—literally, I am to “pursue the love of strangers” (Hebrews 13:2)—not simply offer hospitality to my friends. If I want to demonstrate obedience to my heavenly Father, I will choose to practice hospitality.
First Peter 4:9 builds on the instruction to practice hospitality and reminds me that my attitude is of utmost importance—I am to practice hospitality without complaining! This verse challenges me to conduct a heart search to discern whether I am approaching this opportunity to minister with a “hearty attitude” (Col. 3:23).
I am reminded in Hebrews 13:2 that my willingness to extend hospitality may have far-reaching implications. When I study the lives of Abraham and Sarah (Gen. 18:1-3), Lot (Gen, 19:1-2), Gideon (Judges 6:11-24), and Manoah (Judges 13:6-20), I learn that all entertained strangers who were actually special messengers from God. While my motive should never be to give so that I will receive, Luke 6:38 clearly states that the measuring cup I use to dispense my gifts and talents will be the same one used to provide my needs. What is the size of your hospitality-measuring cup?
Third John 7-8 challenges me to extend hospitality to those involved in ministry for our Lord. It is exciting to know that as I share my home and resources with our Lord’s servants, I become an active part of their ministry.
One of the requirements for individuals involved in church leadership, according to 1 Timothy 3:1-2 and Titus 1:7-8, is a willingness to allow others to observe them in their homes—the arena where their Christianity is most graphically revealed. Are you privileged to be in a leadership position in your church? If so, remember that these verses are requirements, not suggestions!
The twenty-first century church has cultivated highly sophisticated procedures and tools for evangelism—training sessions, online and media resources, seminars, manuals, and methodology books are available. However, as I study Scripture, I find that the home, not the church, served as the center for evangelism in the early expansion of Christianity. Our homes become centers for evangelism when they are dedicated to our Lord.
Extending hospitality may stimulate others to follow your example.
There is a happy ending to my Mother’s loss of her circle of friends. A gracious southern hostess, she did not cease to extend hospitality because of the change in her marital status. In the five years she lived beyond Dad’s death, we frequently extended biblical hospitality.
Eventually our guest list included widows from the group that had earlier excluded my Mother. Though her arthritic condition precluded her engaging in much of the food preparation, she continued to help me hone the skills that were second nature to her.
The loving hospitality extended to us on that first lonely Thanksgiving served as a catalyst for Mom and me to open our home throughout the year—especially during the holiday season!
Consider displaying biblical compassion by including some of the “others”—singles, widows and the grieving in your holiday celebrations. Who, knows, you might be entertaining an angel incognito (Heb. 13:2)!
Here are some ideas to assist in your planning:
- Collect and file simple, inexpensive recipes for desserts and meals.
- Make a list of people who would be encouraged by your offer of hospitality, and purpose to invite your first guests soon!
- Start simple. Spontaneously inviting someone home after Sunday evening church is a great beginning.
- Pray that our loving heavenly Father will give you joy in demonstrating hospitality to others.
- Remember that memories require time and energy to create.
- Purpose to nurture a heart for biblical hospitality that sincerely communicates “come back soon.”
Returning to my introductory question who will be on your holiday guest list? Are you willing to expand it this year?