Tis the season to be…less than jolly, for a lot of people. Christmas signals the birth of peace on earth, goodwill toward all people. Yet December, if you base it on the looks on most peoples’ faces when they are on the road or at the grocery store, connotes peace to fewer and fewer.
Christmas feeds all kinds of anxieties everywhere to be the perfect host/hostess, best friend, most amazing parent, and, of course, most deeply spiritual person anyone knows outside of HGTV.
Yet, it’s also the time we celebrate God’s very great hospitality. That is, if we understand rightly what hospitality means.
Hebrews 13.2: “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
Hospitality, literally, means love of strangers. That’s it. It’s so much less than we imagine, yet so much more. It’s the essences of Christmas—a God who loved us while we were yet strangers.
We celebrate God who was so hospitable that He saw a deep need and came here to fill it. A God who left behind all the perfection that could ever be and entered our imperfect world. Our world, where whether the china matches or the cookie recipe tastes just like Rachael Ray’s is the least of human concerns.
During Christmas, we remember a God who welcomed us into His world, despite our imperfections large and small. He saw that we could not be perfect, we could not be all we should be, we in fact stumble and choose the wrong road and know it’s wrong. He saw that we longed for a world where those things were not true.
So he came.
Christmas is the time we need to be thinking of hospitality more than usual, but not the hospitality we usually think of. The hospitality of Jesus.
This should be good news for most of us, since we can’t all have a beautiful house with Pinterest decor and Food Network dishes. I, for one, am never going to take Cupcake Wars with my decorating skills. But we can all love other people. We are programmed by God to do that. We may have handicaps in that area as well, but we are all capable of loving someone, somewhere, in some way.
Hospitality at Christmas time is not as hard as we make it.
So how do we invite others to that kind of hospitality this season? There are many contenders for a place at our table, or at least a show of love. This being a blog that focuses on the next generation, however, I’m going to offer a sometimes overlooked population. The single person. How can we show hospitality to the singles among us?
Not as in, “Oh, poor single person, you must be so lonely, I know you will be desperate enough to go anywhere, so I’ll have pity on you.” This is not the kind of hospitality I mean, nor is it a very good attempt on the love scale. An invitation that starts out, “If you have nowhere else to go…” is doomed from inception.
However, it’s a given that young singles are most often tagged to work the holidays and are, therefore, unable to go home, if home is not close by. A place at your table could be welcome. It could also be an experience of giving to one another the gift of hearing their heart and knowing who they are.
So a few do’s and don’ts for inviting the next generation to your holiday festivities:
Do encourage them to invite their friends. This accomplishes a few things. It makes things less awkward. It allows them to celebrate with their friends in what might be larger quarters than their own home. It allows you to meet other people, which is always good for you.
Do talk about what you have in common. That is far more than you think. A relationship status is not the most important identifier in a person’s life. Who are they as individuals? Find out.
Do accept their offer to bring something or to help. This is not charity. It is mutual enjoyment. It’s possible that single guy cooks better than you do. It’s probable, in my case. And if not cooking, they have other gifts and talents ready to share. Don’t discount that.
Don’t imply that being single is a disease, misfortune, temporary error, or something the person has done “wrong.” Single people have varying feelings on their relationships, just as others do. They also have plenty of other interests than partner hunting. For the love of God, talk about something else.
Don’t also invite someone you believe is “just perfect” for them. Friends do not set friends up for dates without permission. Just don’t. Awkward will happen.
Don’t initiate a counseling session on why the person is still single. It’s not really your business. Even if you can see no earthly reason for it. Again, talk about life, just life.
Hospitality is such a God thing, and it is also such an endangered art. In discussing Jesus’ habit of eating with anyone anywhere, Skye Jethani makes this beautiful observation:
Somehow, by simply sharing a table with Matthew and his friends, Jesus was bringing healing. The English word hospitality originates from the same Latin root as the word hospital. A hospital is literally a ‘home for strangers.’ Of course, it has come to mean a place of healing. There is a link between being welcomed and being healed. Our homes are to be hospitals — refuges of healing radiating the light of heaven. And our dinner tables are to be operating tables — the place where broken souls are made whole again.
Our homes as refuges. As places of healing. As a safety zone where no one feels the need to be perfect, be interrogated, or be anything but welcomed.
The message of Christmas is the ultimate in hospitality—come as you are. Just come.
For more help with holiday stress and peace, check out Jill’s free ebook, All Stressed Up and No Place to Go.