Christmas is one of those occasions when everyone seems to have a different idea of what is important. For some it might be family, or food, or presents, or getting in touch with old friends via Christmas cards or letters. For some the highlight of Christmas is the Carol Service, or Christingle or Midnight Mass. When my children were small they loved to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas afternoon as we lit a candle on the Christmas Cake.
A few years ago, in a town not far from here, the night shelter volunteers became aware that they were not able to accommodate everyone who approached them for shelter. There were rules that said anyone under the influence of drugs of alcohol could not come into the shelter. However, it was Christmas and there were sub-zero temperatures at night. A group of volunteers asked one church if they could use their building for an extreme-night shelter – one without rules that accepted anyone when the temperature went below 0o. Cautiously and carefully the PCC looked into it, and trusting those who were going to be there, they agreed as it was SO cold. For several nights those too drunk or under the influence of drugs came to the extreme shelter. They knew they were difficult but they were grateful to have a mattress, pillow and sleeping bag in a corner of the church where they could feel safe and relatively warm. They all slept soundly every night. Christmas Eve arrived and the forecast was for very cold weather. The volunteers asked if the drunks and drug addicts could use the building on Christmas Eve. This was a tall order because Midnight Mass was due to take place that evening. The Vicar thought long and hard about it and said, ‘I think this would be most appropriate. After all, Mary and Joseph found it difficult to find room for themselves and Jesus. How can we say we have no room?’
That night, as worshippers arrived for the Midnight service, there were several men sleeping soundly around the sides of the church. They didn’t stir whilst he worshippers sang and prayed and welcomed the birth of the Christ Child. Many of those worshippers went home with something extra to think about and smiled at the thought that they too had welcomed those who were not welcome elsewhere.
For many years, I’ve enjoyed entertaining people who have nowhere else to go for Christmas. They may already be friends or they may be relative strangers but I’ve always found a richness in the celebration when we’ve been able to welcome those who are not welcome elsewhere along with family and friends whom I know well.
Mary, Joseph and Jesus found that there was no room for them that first Christmas. As we seek to welcome Jesus into our churches, homes and lives this Christmas we might find ourselves welcoming those who are less than welcome elsewhere.
Enjoy welcoming all your guests this Christmas and if not welcoming then I hope you will be welcomed yourself.
Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year from
All those who minister in the G7 churches