Hosting Guest During The Holidays, Then and Now

May 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm Leave a comment

By Chris Thomas


“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel” which means “God is with us.”

Matthew 1:23


The season of Thanksgiving to Christmas has always been a special time for us, full of family and traditions. My mother in law always had a Birthday Party for Jesus, baked mountains of cookies and put together goodie sacks for each of her twenty two grandchildren. My mom always made oyster stew for Christmas Eve, decorated every room in the house, and hosted parties each week in December for various friends, family and business associates.


When our sons were young, we lived six hours away from Texarkana. Choosing to be part of the gatherings and traditions meant taking vacation days, spending gas money and “camping out” at Grandma’s or at “Thomasville”. For our folks, it meant extra food preparation, cleaning spare bedrooms and bathrooms before and after our visit, and the noise and energy of young children in the house. Though each of these might be seen as a burden, when offered with love they became a gift. Hospitality was joyfully given and gratefully received.


In his book Virtues for Ordinary Christians, James Keenan points out that hospitality is the virtue that God practices. He observes our needs and our vulnerabilities and provides for them. Even though the world was inhospitable to Jesus, he welcomed the world. In Bethlehem, Jesus, Mary and Joseph extended hospitality to the poor shepherds and the rich magi. Jesus instructed his disciples in this virtue through his parables and through his actions by welcoming the children, feeding the multitudes and accepting all invitations that were extended. His final action in the book of John was to prepare breakfast for his disciples. Truly Jesus fulfilled his role as Emmanuel by being fully present both as host and as guest.


This Thanksgiving and Christmas will be our first as grandparents. It is a privilege and a joy to welcome our son and his family to Texarkana when they now travel six hours to be here. There will also be a deep awareness of their need to share time with our daughter in law’s family. Sometimes the gift one is called to give is graciously accepting that the visiting family may need to come and go or

just desire quiet time. We have been fortunate that our daughter in law makes sure we know when they are available for meals or gatherings. When they return home, she always sends notes with thanks and photographs which lighten a gloomy January day.


Even in their poverty, the Holy Family extended hospitality to the shepherds who then returned to their flocks, glorifying and praising God. In the book of Luke, we are told “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”. During this season of giving thanks, take a few moments of reflection to praise the God who is with us in our loved ones and our guests.


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