In some ways, this is a season of hospitality or its lack.
Many of us hear the story of the emigration and return of Joseph and Mary to and from Egypt, reminiscent of the time the Israelites spent in Egypt generations earlier. Many of us hear the story of the pregnant Mary being welcomed by her also-pregnant cousin Elizabeth near the end of Mary’s pregnancy. And many of us hear the story of the Posada, or the going from inn to inn in search a place to stay, and finally settling down in the hay of the stable.
Many of us hear the story of the Eight Days in the story of the Maccabees, and those of us who hear the story may put our menorah where our neighbors can see it. Why? So they will know that ours is a house of hospitality.
Many of us have come together in Circles, around potlucks, and told
stories of the Sun and Moon. I tell a story of seeing, of learning, of
understanding that in the cold places, just as in the hot places, we need each other to survive.
We need one another’s hospitality, one another’s welcome. I tell my story of snow lit blue by a full moon and shadowed by the black fingers of trees. I tell my story of learning that to be left in the cold is to be left in the cold, metaphorically and literally. To be left to die. And so we light our house only with candles and the fireplace and welcome those who happen to come, sanctuary for ourelves, sanctuary for others.
Many of us come together to hear te stories of values essential to keeping community together. It is 50 years since the seven candles, three red, three green, and one black, began to be lit in groups, in services, in families. And how essential is hospitality to community, to cooperation, to a true and deep faith?
Do we tell other stories of the hospitality that is so desperately needed in our cities, especially? Do we tell stories of park benches and bus benches arranged so that no one can sleep on them? Or do we tell tales of our cities that have shelters built on the back of benches, where people can sleep and be somewhat safe, somewhat covered, somewhat sheltered from the elements?
I am so grateful for the hospitality I learned as a child. I am so grateful for the hospitality my nuclear family extended to my wife immediately upon meeting her. I am so grateful for the extended family that hospitality has grown around me, year after year. From my mother’s crazy-long open houses, to the Haights’ Christmas party, to the gathering a Zeno’s on Christmas night, to our special dishes, to the welcome my family has shown so many in my life, I am grateful.
And yet chronic illness and other concerns have kept me from offering the hospitality I would like. And I know that’s true for many of you, as well.
So what can we do?
One of the things I have learned is to welcome myself. To welcome me to myself, however I’m feeling and whatever is happening. Today, I have a cold, one that began on solstice. Winter solstice is a high holyday for me, and I was sad not to have the energy to bring forth our usual festivities. And yet, we had a somewhat unexpected and lovely guest. We were able to welcome her. And I am becoming slowly able to welcome myself in this moment of physically not feeling well.
The other I welcome is the divine God Herself. I welcome her, and as Mark Silver and Steve Mattus have taught me to ask and consider, I welcome the question, “Is love available to me, even here?”
Is love available to you, even here?
I bet the answer is yes, but we each have to come there in our own time, with our own welcome. I can tell you I love you, but what does it mean? That is a post for another time, I think.
Nonetheless, much love to you in this season of Northern-Hemisphere holidays, global tilt, and holidays.