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Decorate the table. Prepare a gourmet meal. Throw a fabulous celebration. Our culture tells us that these are some of the ways to show hospitality to others, especially during the holiday season.
But if we approach hospitality from a more spiritual perspective, our priorities take a radical shift. Rather than just decorating our homes, we instead prepare a place in our hearts to be present and engaged with those around us. It takes the focus away from our holiday party plans and places it on welcoming the Christ we see in others.
Within families, preparing for the holidays can be a stress-filled time, especially if our plans leave us drained or distracted. It doesn't have to be that way, said Don Reinard, who leads the hostel ministry at First Trinity Lutheran Church, Washington, D.C.
"Welcoming other people can be the most energizing thing you do," said Reinard, who keeps the church's doors open year-round to provide a safe and comfortable place for groups to stay while they're visiting the nation's capital. "Life really is all about getting to know other people, having them get to know you, and seeing each other as neighbors."
Families can weave the practice of hospitality more fully into their daily lives when they:
• Think bigger.
Hospitality is more complex than just a meal and blanket for our guests. It also includes a smile and a welcome for those who are new to us. Hospitality is an invitation from the Spirit to recognize the holiness of others—to see the stranger as a person loved by God and made in God's image.
• Support hospitality efforts within the community.
Each day, ELCA congregations across the country work in a variety of ways to extend Christ's welcome to others. Some activities to consider include assisting with a refugee resettlement program in your area or hosting foreign exchange students.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers