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Thoughts From Molly Hare

Dear Friends,

Advent greetings to you all! Today I offer you a "thought" that centers around one who was not welcomed. It parallels a distinct theme in the Christmas story which most all of you know well. Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem only to discover there was no room for them in the Inn. Later they had to flee for their lives, as refugees, to the land of Egypt. And it didn't end there. John recounts it as an ongoing theme of Jesus later ministry as well: 'Though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him..." (John 1:10-11).

The following selection comes to you from Molly Hare, an associate campus outreach worker at Clemson University. She works with the CCO (The Coalition for Christian Outreach), a Christian ministry that reaches out on college campuses across the U.S. Matthew West, our pastor of outreach, is a CCO staff-person reaching out at the local Bucks Community College campus in our town.

I trust you will find Molly's story (a true story) to be challenging, maybe a bit convicting, and hopefully one that motivates you this Christmas to reach out to the overlooked (even those intentionally or purposely overlooked for whatever the reason may be). Enjoy.

"A week before we moved to Clemson, South Carolina, I had a horrible dream. In this dream, I was in the front yard of our new home, paralyzed and panicked. I felt the palpable fear of being trapped. In many ways, this dream made no sense at all. My husband and I were born and bred in the South. Cotillions and country clubs, private preparatory schools, and fried chicken—lots of fried chicken. We were surrounded by many kinds of abundance, in a culture where church-going was normative and neighborliness was routine. After my husband graduated from seminary in Philadelphia, we were called home to the land of Southern Hospitality. And Southern Hospitality was there in full force to greet us.

Casseroles and cookies appeared, and we were bombarded with invitations to churches and play dates. Someone anonymously cut our grass for us—twice. We were a young Christian family who had come to minister to college students, and my neighbors were so glad that we had arrived. But I felt uneasy, and I wasn’t sure why. Until one day, early in the afternoon, when there was a knock at the door. I prepared a smile, suspecting that it was another meal from one of the kind women in the neighborhood, or an invitation to a Bible study.

When I opened the door, I saw a woman holding a beautiful tray. The tray was shaking in her hand, and the tray was filled with food I didn’t recognize. The woman was my neighbor, and she was wearing a hijab. Throughout the following weeks, this young woman and I began having tea regularly. She was from the Middle East and came to the United States because her husband was a student at Clemson University. Someday she wanted to be a teacher, but for now she cared for her children and home. Little did I know then how much she would teach me.

One day over tea, I shared about how welcomed we had been when we moved into the neighborhood. My neighbor, who had arrived three months before we did, paused for a long moment. “No one has come to welcome or meet us,” she said, looking at me intently. “I think that this is because I wear the hijab.” As I felt the impact of her words, I considered that my neighbor did not have a car. She was home every single day, all day. Their house was at the front of the neighborhood. Every day, her children would get off the bus and for the next two hours, they would play in the front yard. But no cookies or casseroles were offered to her. Southern hospitality did not visit my friend. I remembered my dream and felt paralyzed. How could this woman and her family be so completely overlooked?

This Advent, as I read about Mary and Joseph knocking on doors in Bethlehem, I see my friend with her tray, hands shaking. Did Mary tremble too? Did Joseph feel lonely and overlooked when he was told there was no room for him among the descendants of David, when he watched the Messiah come into the world on its margins? In the Incarnation, Jesus came to those who were not ready to receive him. And then He turned everything upside down. The One on the margins was revealed as the center of it all. Jesus, the rejected guest, was revealed as true Host, inviting those on the margins to draw near.

Human hospitality has its limits, but, in Christ, divine hospitality beckons to all. This One, whose glory is full of grace and truth, calls us to trust Him and open the door! Then we can invite others to draw near—and receive the welcome only Jesus can give. ‘But to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, children who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God" - John 1:12”

As believers in Jesus we are called to practice hospitality. Most people I know tend to do that well when it comes to family and friends. But as the author of Hebrews reminds us: "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it" (Heb. 13:2).

"Strangers" is the key word there. Not people we know. Not family and friends. Not work associates or people we have a relationship with -- but "strangers." Why? The verse tells us: Because we never know who they might be, why God sent them across our path, or how God might use our friendliness and acts of hospitality in His redemptive plan to reach our neighbors, or the nations.

Maybe as Christmas Day 2019 approaches, you could pause, take a moment to reflect, and consider what "stranger" you might invite into your home so as to extend to them the love of Jesus. Who knows, you might even, "entertain an angel without knowing it."

In the Grace of Jesus, Pastor Jeff


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