PENNSYLVANIA SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE
OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST
Olivet-Schwenkfelder
United Church of Christ

619 Township Line Road, East Norriton, PA  19403
"An Open and Affirming Community of Faith"
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When I think about the Christmas story I am struck by two things

First: God’s grace. The Christ child was God’s ultimate gift of salvation given to humanity. Second: humanity’s hospitality. The Christ child would never have been born – or survived – if not for the radical hospitality of complete
strangers...

As scripture teaches, Joseph and Mary were forced to leave their home by the government. They had to journey to a strange place where they were unwelcome. Again and again doors were closed in their faces, accompanied by the words “no room!” No one wanted the added burden of two people (one of whom was very pregnant). Space and resources were limited. And what homeowner or innkeeper wanted to deal with a stranger’s potential labor and delivery on their doorstep? Yet one man had empathy and compassion. He offered his barn; not ideal accommodations, but the best he could do. His hospitality allowed the Christ child to enter this world in relative warmth and safety. Without that unnamed innkeeper, would Mary or the baby have survived?

Scripture additionally teaches that not long after the birth, things became very unsafe in Judea. The government was targeting baby boys. Mary and Joseph felt the life of their son – Jesus -was in danger, so they chose to flee the country. With nothing but what they could carry, the Joseph and Mary took their baby across the border. The Egyptians could have prevented their passage. Egypt could have detained the Holy Family, or sent them back to face persecution at the hands of King Herod. But instead, someone welcomed them. Just like in Bethlehem, someone was moved by empathy and compassion to welcome these strangers fleeing their home. Some Egyptian’s hospitality ensured that the Christ child was safe with his parents, and provided for the family. We don’t know exactly how long they remained refugees in Egypt, only that it was for multiple years. It was the hospitality of complete strangers that allowed Jesus to survive and become the messiah God intended him to be.

This Christmas season, may we meditate on how we – too – can show radical hospitality. During his ministry, Jesus went on to say: “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me... For truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:43-45). Would we have welcomed Mary and Joseph that first Christmas night? Would we have welcomed the Holy Family during their flight to Egypt? May we truly honor God’s gift of grace through our hospitality and love.

Blessing,
Pastor Leslie


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