I remember one Christmas Eve as a child…when I was nigh unto 6 or so. We, my family and I, had spent the evening at my Grandmother’s house. I had eaten cookies and goodies…likely too many…yet, I asked for more, only to be told, “No.” However, I snuck them anyway. Even by the age of 5 I had learned to palm cookies pretty well. I could slink past the cookie tray… “accidentally” kick the cat…the cat would shriek and bolt across the floor…drawing everyone’s attention, while I took my chocolaty prize to my grandmother’s basement and eat my plunder alone in the dark…sounds like my High School dating years. It became a problem when I returned from the dark basement, only to be asked, “What is that brown stuff on your face?”
“I don’t know…must be spider guts.”
When my family returned home that night…my father told me a lie. He asked me if my room was clean, which I of course replied, “Yes!”
“Should I go check?” He asked.
I once again gave the obvious answer, “No!...Maybe I should go make sure my little brother didn’t mess it up after I cleaned it!”
Then the lie came…“If you don’t clean your room, Santa won’t come!”
I am already five years old at the time…as if I don’t know by now…
I bolted upstairs and cleaned my room as fast and as thoroughly as you could ever imagine. I don’t know at what age exactly that I came to know the truth and I realized that my dad was a liar. But now at the age of 42 I am certain…the truth is…spoiler alert…Santa would have come whether my room was clean or not!
Santa did come…he ate the cookies…he drank the milk…he filled the stockings…and then he left...
Why are we so hospitable to someone who is so elusive? Hospitality is in its very nature designed for connection…for relationship. How does Santa build relationship with anyone? True relationship can’t be build with; “eating and running”…“dinning and dashing”…“chowing and chimneying”…“slurping and sleighing”?...you get the idea.
In 1 Peter 4:9, the apostle Peter encourages us to take the, “love for one another”, that we read last week…and to use it to show “hospitality to one another.” The very word for hospitality in the Greek is rooted in love and could potentially be translated into “love strangers with a loving generosity.” What I find most interesting about this idea of hospitality…is that its focus always seems to be on someone else…and not ourselves. I take what the Lord has given to me…and I bless others with it. I don’t draw attention to myself…it is not about “showing off” what I have…or making myself “look” a certain way to other people. It is about connecting…loving…being sacrificially generous.
Jesus reflected this with his earthly life better than anyone I know. Jesus chose to love and practice hospitality with those who were despised and hated…without a concern as to how it looked to others.
It raises some interesting questions. Would Jesus offer me hospitality? How should I offer him hospitality? Who is worthy to receive hospitality?