For the last few years, holidays have been different for me. I moved out of the country and had to learn a new way of doing holidays, away from my biological family. The first year was the strangest– going to a virtual stranger’s house for a holiday that with it carried quite a lot of *stuff* for me. It was different- more than I expected it to be. Stranger and better simultaneously. Not being in the states, the holidays held less pressure, less intensity– and with that, more peace. More ease of passing. A deeper focus on what they meant and what the holidays were really celebrating. Since moving back to the states it’s been similar. I can’t go to my parent’s house for every holiday– I have to pick one. But in so doing, I’ve learned more about hospitality and welcoming people in and what community really is than I ever could staying near my biological family.
Here, it’s different. We choose our people. We choose our communities. And while I strongly believe God gives us certain people in our lives to shape us into who he has made us to be, we have to choose to live our lives with them to really dive into that.
About a year ago, one of my friends started thinking about the idea of Christ’s table. It’s the table where communion is held, where feasting takes place, where David welcomed Mephibosheth, and where we will all one day sit in the New Earth with our Lord. We started discussing it constantly, and then I couldn’t get away from it.
I ran across the theme in blogposts, in articles, in books, in classes, and even in my daily life. I realized that a big part of developing a family atmosphere for people without family close by was going to involve inviting people in, having them gather around my table, and going when invited to gather with others. This table isn’t just about food. It’s about presence. It’s about being one. It’s about family.
Our dining tables are places of learning, of sanctification, of celebration, of life. This is the beautiful blessing of living in Christian community— we have this outside of the four walls of the church! In addition, we get to welcome in those who think differently, who don’t believe the same way we do, and in so doing, we show the world that we are not completely crazy weirdos for our beliefs. We get to show the world the love of a God who came down and sat at our tables, a God who celebrated with us and mourned with us, and a God who spent his last night on earth feasting with his friends while still welcoming in those whom society looked down upon.
At our tables we get to show our friends, our neighbors, our enemies, and complete strangers the beauty of Immanuel– a God who was with us for a while and will be with us forever. A God with whom we will dine and commune for eternity. The more we invite people in, the more we reflect a God who invites us in. The more we reflect the story of the grace given us.
Because I’ve been invited in, I know there are so many houses in this city in which I am welcome. I can walk into one house and get greeted by tiny hugs and puppy kisses. There’s another home where, if I sit on the floor, it won’t be long before I have a two year-old with a book in my lap demanding to be read to. There are places I can go in my sweats and watch Christmas movies, and people who will just walk in my door and start watching tv. This is family so beyond my biological family. It’s a family that is given by God to demonstrate that not all family shares blood, but all family shares life– the daily ins and outs.
So, this holiday season and in the rest of life, remember to invite in those you may not normally consider. Let outsiders feel like family. It’s how places become home.
Milly is a student at NOBTS studying Discipleship & Women’s Ministry. She serves in the President’s Home as the administrative assistant to the President’s Wife as well as in the residency program with Lakeshore Church.