Advent is here. We are straining forward each day with anticipation. But still, this season of darkness and yearning is upon me. The early day’s sun retreats leaving a smattering of white twinkling lights strung in rows across the tree like fingerprints. The candle’s flesh is melting down its sides like shedding skin and it flickers like a great hope in the darkness.
I can’t help but feel my depression is an assault on God’s goodness trying to blind me to everything but the most vulgar and ugly parts of the world. There is so much devastation and wreckage and each year at this time I find myself balancing the tender places familiar with a world in grief, in sorrow, and longing, with a world in celebration, rejoicing, and communing with a sent Savior.
How could we not have both?
I live with great hope. It might seem contrary but how can we rejoice a Savior without knowing intimately what we are being saved from?
I feel my salvation every day but never more than when I am weak and weary, when the thought of hospitality seems daunting and unwieldy, some mythical thing that only the elite and wealthy do well. When the idea of hospitality has more to do with entertaining and pulling out Grandma’s ivory china than offering a place to come weary and find rest.
I might be able to answer “fine” when asked how I am, but it would be the tidy answer I give to those who are already scanning the room for the next person and any other answer would be an assault to the pretense we’ve established.
I’ve never lived in a culture which appreciates tidy constructs as much as ours. The church should not be that place.
When fine is my truth I guard it like first fruits ripening on the vine. I place hope in bountiful grace, ever growing. I know even my unfine cannot spoil the vine I’m grafted into. But sometimes the fruit seems pitiful and few when I can’t even manage my life well lived.
I wonder what I can offer in this conversation.
Maybe you wonder too? Maybe you’re struggling. Maybe you’re floundering and the manger isn’t enough to remind you how humbly we can come.
Hospitality has been hijacked and repackaged to mean polished and posh. What room does this give for those who have nothing but Kraft mac and cheese in their cupboards, $4.67 on their SNAP benefit card, and 4 hungry children to feed? What kind of hospitality are we erecting when it’s not accessible to all? When the poor, and depressed, the sick and afflicted can’t partake?
When Kris asked me to join Grace Table I knew I wanted to be a part of this. But I also knew my hospitality wasn’t going to be glamour shots of oiled oak tables and crusty bread pulled hot and fresh from my oven and broken wide open and fragrant. That said, I have nothing against fresh bread and if you bake some, by all means invite me over, but don’t call that hospitality. That’s baking.
Hospitality is what happens in the invitation. In the receiving and communion of souls making space for each other. And sure, we can do that over bread. But we can also do that over a hospital bed, or a checkout counter, or a blog post we disagree with.
It can happen in an instant of really seeing someone and going beyond fine, it can happen in a lifetime of pulling back the chair and widening the circle.
I knew my hospitality would be desperate and soiled. It would be the remnants of a stretched soul and empty spaces and the room to understand the long exhale and too many inappropriate tears at the most inconvenient times. It would be the gift of being unfine and the pretense dropped like filthy rags. It would be making room at a table that wasn’t set just so.
The gift of an imperfect table, set with extra spaces is a gathering place.
It’s the chipped cup and the mismatched silverware. It’s letting go of making things for Jesus and wreaking havoc in the process, instead of making in Jesus. For we all dwell here in his presence, making room for the spent, the weary, the stranger, the enemy, and the other.
We all gather here with sober minds to align our unguarded hearts to Him. Surrendering to Jesus as He leads. There are sick to sit with, gifts to wrap, hungry to nourish, hands to grasp hold of, hymns to sing, trees to decorate, tea to brew, prayers to pray, tears to shed, cookies to bake, forgiveness to ask, souls to harvest, and glory to be seen.
All can partake, all are called. Come weary, come full. Be met with Jesus.
Advent is upon us and the invitation awaits. Hospitality happens there.