A few years back the final months of the year had been difficult for a number of reasons: family medical crises, and the ongoing impact of the global economic crisis on the ministry had caused an unusual amount of stress. My mind was so full that, at times, I felt as though I were the rope in a tug-of-war between two football teams.
Perhaps you can understand why I’d been hanging out for Christmas—a chance to take a break and spend time with those I wanted to be with, a chance to unwind and escape the daily pressures.
So when one of my daughters announced that she’d invited a friend to share Christmas lunch with us, my idyllic illusion was shattered. I’d already asked two of my friends (both divorced), but for some reason I just snapped at the thought of a relative stranger joining us.
Christmas is a time when we celebrate the coming of Christ, the Saviour. It’s the season when we speak of PEACE, JOY and LOVE. And, as Christians, we should lead the world in demonstrating these qualities. Well, not one of those qualities was evident in my response that night. Oh, I had no problem providing valid reasons to justify my stance; but the next morning, I knew that I had been unreasonable and that my response had been wrong.
In the book of Hebrews (13:2), the writer urges us, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Journey with me back to Bethlehem on that first Christmas. Joseph and his heavily pregnant wife Mary went from place to place in Bethlehem seeking somewhere to rest, but they were repeatedly turned away. Imagine for a moment the innkeeper and what might have happened if he’d been out of sorts that night and rejected Joseph’s request.
Surely the innkeeper had no idea that a baby would be born that very night, or that shepherds and wise men would come to his inn to worship and adore this precious new life. Importantly, the innkeeper’s motives were noble. Rather than focusing on what he could get out of the situation—or what was convenient and comfortable—he showed sympathy for the plight of this young couple. And, in doing so, he unwittingly provided the birthplace for not just an angel, but the King of Kings!
The writer of Hebrews also challenges us to put ourselves in the shoes of others. How else can we empathise with them? As we think of and pray for those in prison during Christmas, let’s place ourselves in the adjacent cell. How does it feel? What are their needs? How can we best pray for them? And what about the lonely young woman, estranged from her family and suffering from depression—what does she need most this Christmas?
That is where I went astray. I let the pressures of the moment cloud my thinking. Instead of seeing this invitation as a God-given opportunity to provide a family Christmas to someone in need, I was too concerned with the comfort and convenience of my own little world.
That Christmas was one of the best we’ve had as three more joined in the Tyrrell family celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Messiah. I’ve learned a lesson: there’s now always room in my inn.
As followers of Christ, we should be ready to welcome others into our homes at every opportunity. It is in these times that we can spread the PEACE, JOY and LOVE that can only be experienced through Jesus.
And you never know…you might just share your Christmas lunch with an angel.