This past Sunday, for Children’s Time, we talked about what Thanksgiving Dinner looked like for everyone’s family. Sometimes it’s just our immediate family: parents and kids, brothers and sisters. Sometimes it’s grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. Sometimes it’s lots of friends gathered around.
Then I shared that when I was growing up, my house was always the one where everyone was welcome for holidays. Whether it was Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, it really didn’t matter – if you needed a place to go, we just added another place setting. My mom and daddy, and then later dad, would actually keep an eye out for friends and extended family who were looking for a home to spend the holiday meals. To feel welcome. To find the hospitality that is so often lacking in our world. And when someone was found, the invitation was always, Well, come on, with a great big smile and an outstretched arm.
When I finished my story, I asked them, what’s another place that’s meant to look like that? Should always be like that – a family where you are welcome and accepted and there is always room enough at the table?
Interestingly, the little kids didn’t quite know the answer. But the teenagers, who have spent a bit more time with me had it figured out: the Church. (Not so surprising what career I went into with a family like that, is it?)
The Church is meant to be the ultimate welcome table with great big open doors. And our lives and our homes are meant to imitate that.
Now, I get that the world is scary. I understand the dangers that are lurking in the shadows and the reality of what is really out there – I’m a woman, remember? We’re trained from the get-go.
Nevertheless, especially when it comes to our churches, we are far from alone. There is no excuse. And as to our homes, perhaps the lesson is to find ways to open our hearts just a bit wider this year.
Remember those candles in your windows, those used to be a signal to weary travelers that your house was a safe place to stay in winter months. Not just a pretty decorative statement.
So as we come to our holiday this week when we give thanks for everything we have in our lives – because all of it is a gift – wouldn’t it be a miracle if every one of us looked for at least one way to ensure that those around us find the place at the table they never thought would exist.