It's the Holiday season ya'll. Each year I begin by asking God to slow my pace, put my eyes on Him and allow me to soak up His precious gift sent in the manger. And each year, I fall short. Hoping to keep more margin, more time to reflect and rejoice, I set out again this season to be still. So when Matt gets a dinner invitation from a work acquaintance, my heart begins to race, thinking this will be the beginning of a jam packed Christmas.
The evening of the dinner invitation arrives and I carefully orchestrate a school night away from home, put on my "business casual" and head out with my husband for a handshaking and yes m'aiming kind of evening. We pull up and are immediately relieved to see a driveway full of cars. It's much easier to blend in when their are more folks, less obvious when you skive out early, seeking "margin". We are greeted at the door by a joyful woman offering to take our coats as she points to a four row shelf containing cases of every flavor of soda you could imagine. She ushers us into a crowded kitchen, full of friendly hands assisting in what smells like a heavenly mix of roasted meat, savory soup and potatoes. We then see the most amazing sight, a living room converted into a mess hall, for real. The host later explains that he has two types of meals each week, short table meals and long table meals. His short table meals consists of neighbors and close friends, seats 8 and he dines at that table about 3 times a week. His long table holds other folks he knows, ones he wants to know better or he wants to connect to some other folks for them to know each other closer. He has "long table" dinners about twice a week. The tables themselves are simple, fold out variety with plastic table clothes, but the message is the sweetest example of hospitality I've seen in a good long while. Connection. Good food. Nothing else. It became clear that we'd been invited into a sacred place, where a mess hall has permanently taken over a living room in honor of connecting people. The host carefully makes his way around, passing out shrimp cocktail in those little nacho plastic containers found at ballgames, genius! He has everyone share business cards and carefully points out similarities and rarities in each guest. The king of hospitality didn't spend a moment worrying about his centerpiece, saltine crackers and butter would do just fine. He didn't waste anytime on color scheme, perfect music or tidying up his home. The scope bottle fixed on the entry way staircase was a signal to just come and be as you are. Hallelujah and Amen!! We stayed, we reclined, we ate and connected. In fact, we were the last folks to leave, no need to skive out when genuine hospitality is reigning.
While the invitation to this evening had me spiraling over the thought of more on my calendar, another line on my to do list, God had other plans. He carefully opened my eyes to see what hospitality His way looks like. He changed the lens through which I look, pointing out that people are the focus, all the time. He warmed my soul with good food, precious conversation and a pocket full of new folks to know closer. What if, this year, I am less concerned with keeping room for margin, praying for focus and time for reflection and just opened my house more often to connect with His people? What if I got over myself and what I want this season and just threw my arms and doors wide open to see what He wants? I'm thinking, finally, this season, I may grow closer to knowing the true Prince of Peace through an encounter with the king of hospitality.