Friday, December 14, 2012

December 14, 2012

Today's text

The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone; he was coming into the world. He was in the world that had come into being through him, and the world did not recognize him. He came to his own and his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, … born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself (John 1:9-12).


Peggy and Michael met in the prayer corner last Sunday morning. I saw them as I stepped from the Lord’s Table. Communion distribution was done, but holy communion continued as they sat knee-to-knee, their hands and hearts folded into each other.

The scene was just right. It was perfect: A prayer minister with cancer held the hands of a father living in prayer for his seriously ill child and the struggle of his family, which has endured many deaths.

Who knows how to pray for him like she does? I can’t imagine anyone as qualified. They need each other more than the rest of us can understand.

They sat together, the worn and worried, receiving the warmth and grace of the other, joined so closely in prayer that you could not see where one pair of hands left off and the other began.

It was the meeting of hope and fear. Hope won. Peace prevailed. Christmas came once more. God became flesh as the grace of two Christ-filled hearts blessed each other in Sunday morning light.

It couldn’t have happened if our congregation didn’t have that prayer space in the front corner of the sanctuary for needy souls to care for each other.

It certainly wouldn’t have happened without the grace of hospitality, the open-hearted willingness to receive the need and soul of another into one’s own heart.

They could have isolated themselves in their private pain as so many do, protecting their hearts behind thick walls lest anyone see how vulnerable they are. But they surrendered to the possibility that God’s magic might happen if they opened themselves to receive the grace and pain of others.

They accepted what each other brought, receiving the flesh of God, becoming truest children of God.

Christmas is about this kind of hospitality. God takes our flesh into himself as Christ, the heart of God, puts on mortal flesh. Our need and weakness is received into God in an ultimate act of hospitality. The life of God and the need of our bodies and souls are folded into one, like hands in prayer. Life and grace, blessing and need pass between us.

Hospitality is present throughout the Christmas story. Mary and Joseph depend on the generosity of strangers as they traveled to Bethlehem. Mary gives birth to Jesus in a cattle stall provided by someone who invited them inside.

In the ancient world, life depended on the hospitality of others. Looking at Peggy and Michael, I see that it still does.

For prayer and reflection

  • When have you been blessed by the hospitality of others, or by your own acts of hospitality?
  • What keeps you from sharing yourself like Peggy and Michael?
  • How might you show greater hospitality to others in your life during this season?

Another voice

What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping? This, this is Christ the king, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the son of Mary!
(“What Child Is This,” William C. Dix, 16th cent.)

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