Opening the Barn: Offering Hospitality
this Holiday Season
One of the most striking images of the Christmas story is that of Mary laying Jesus in a food trough.
Unable to find lodging in more conventional spaces (someone’s guest bedroom, a hotel, or an Air B-N-B all would have been fine), Mary gives birth in a barn.
We don’t hear much about the inn keepers. We don’t know whether they view having the messiah born in their stable as a point of pride or an inconvenience. But we do know they made space, providing shelter and some form of hospitality (however rustic) to the young couple.
Hospitality is a recurring theme in the Bible. From Leviticus to Luke, we are commanded to welcome the stranger, and put up those in need of shelter, food, or love. As the writer of Hebrews notes, you never know when it’s an angel at your door! (13.2).
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary takes the commandment to show hospitality and contribute to the needs of the saints seriously.
At Austin’s AYAVA house, young people who are volunteering their time through full-time service organizations like AmeriCorps, Young Adult Volunteers, and others, are invited to live alongside students in affordable (think dirt cheap) housing. These young people, who might otherwise struggle to find housing and community, are welcomed into unused space. Best of all, it’s much better than a barn.
How can you show hospitality this Advent season? Who in your community could use a meal, a place to stay, or just someone to talk to?
It’s easy to find reasons why not to host guests. Maybe your guest bedroom is full of “stuff” you’ve been meaning to go through, but just haven’t gotten to yet. You wouldn’t want someone to see that mess! Or maybe it’s just too hard with the kids and work and Church and everything else you’ve got going on. Or maybe you, like me, always worry they’d be more comfortable somewhere else.
But it’s worth remembering: When it came to the birth place of Jesus the Christ, being born in a barn was good enough for who it was for.
Which means your messy guest room, your busy schedule, or your cramped couch will all likely be good enough for the person you know in need.
This Advent, find a way to transform an unused space – whether it be a bedroom, or a place at the dinner table – into a new adventure. And see what blessings the world has in store as a result.
After all, the world is full of people who could use a home cooked meal and a place to do some laundry for free.