Dr. Craig Kraft
/Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them (Luke 2:4-7 CSB).
The warm cozy image of Baby Jesus swaddled in clean blue blankets and warmly tucked into a bed of clean straw while surrounded by his parents, livestock and shepherds is probably far from reality.
Mary and Joseph were staying in a stable because no one took them in.
It was customary in those days for travelers to receive hospitality from strangers, who would invite them in for a meal or to sleep in safety. Because of the census, Bethlehem was full, the only hospitality offered to Joseph and his pregnant fiancé, was a place with the livestock.
Christmas is a time for hospitality; a time to open our homes and extend a warm welcome to friends and family.
But that’s not all.
It is also a time to open our lives to others, to strangers, to people in need. No one should be left out or forgotten at Christmas time. Everyone matters!
As I write this blog, Vancouver and the Fraser Valley of British Colombia remain cut off from the rest of our country by the aftermath of terrible storms that flooded homes and highways and caused massive mudslides and washouts to all our major highways. Hundreds of travelers were stranded when the roads were closed, and they had to seek shelter wherever they could find it.
Natural disasters are devastating but they also tend to bring out the best in people.
- Travellers looked out for each other on the road, sharing water, snacks, and whatever they had as they waited all night for helicopters to rescue them from severed highways.
- People in small towns like Hope, BC opened their schools, churches, and homes, to provide food and shelter for strangers for several days until they could find a way home.
The stories of hospitality are a picture of beauty rising out of the cataclysmic storm that left a wake of death and destruction. For a moment, all our labels, politics, religion, status, and opinions faded off into the distance and new friendships were forged as people reached out to care for others.
Caring for Strangers
What is hospitality? We generally think of hospitality as entertaining with family and friends or making our guests feel comfortable, but Amy Oden stated that “At the very least, hospitality is the welcoming of the stranger (hospes)” (Oden 2001:13). The Bible presents hospitality as love for strangers.
This is what true hospitality is, caring for strangers.
This is the kind of hospitality we saw recently on our highways and small towns as people opened their doors to care for complete strangers.
It is unfortunate that it can take a disaster for some of us to set aside our many differences and show unconditional love and care to others. How can we perpetuate true hospitality through the holiday season? I have four simple suggestions for making true hospitality part of your Christmas celebration.
4 Simple Suggestions to Include Hospitality in your Christmas Celebrations
1. Open your home to someone in need.
Do you know someone who is displaced this Christmas? It may be a student who can’t go home, a family displaced from their home due to the floods, an international student or worker, or someone who has been displaced by the pandemic.
There are a lot of people who are unable to be with family this year - can you be their family for Christmas? (Matthew 25:31-40)
2. Mend a relationship.
Broken and dysfunctional relationships can be barriers to hospitality.
This may be a good time to reach out to someone you have hurt, or someone who has hurt you. Words of kindness, grace, mercy, and forgiveness can go a long way in healing broken relationships, and they reflect the very heart of Jesus. “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)
3. Extend kindness to a stranger.
We may “pay it forward” at a drive-through or take Christmas cookies to a new neighbour. There is no end to the ways that we can show kindness. Providing small gifts for a family that is struggling or pulling together a hamper of groceries are simple things that most of us can do quite easily. If you really want to get creative, go to the local mechanic shop and offer to help with the bill for a single mom or student who can’t afford to repair their car. Leave a little note that gives God the glory for the gift. (Ephesians 4:32)
4. Check your attitude.
It is easy to get caught up in all the materialism that has become a big part of our holiday season. Check your attitude and measure your priorities. Do your actions and attitude reflect Jesus? If we are caught up in grumbling and complaining, we are not reflecting Christ. If we are only focused on ourselves, we are missing the mark. If we are not reaching out with compassion and care for others, we fail to “love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
These are just a few simple suggestions to help you think and be creative about how you can make biblical hospitality part of your holiday season. Who knows, you might love it so much that you carry on into the new year!
I hope that no one gets left out in the cold this Christmas. Bethlehem missed an opportunity to show hospitality to Mary and Joseph. Let’s not do the same.
Dr. Craig Kraft is the Executive Director of Outreach Canada. After 15 years of pastoral ministry in western Canada, Craig, with his wife Heather, served with OC in southern Africa before returning to lead the ministry in Canada. Craig is a graduate of Northwest Baptist Seminary at ACTS and a graduate of Asia Graduate School of Theology with a Doctor of Intercultural Studies. His study has focused on diaspora missiology in Canada. His dissertation explores the potential for revitalizing Canadian churches through the practice of biblical hospitality with refugees and immigrants. Craig loves to watch sports, work in the yard & spend time in the woods.