Parties, presents, preparations, people… We all busy ourselves with so many activities at this time of year! Somehow December flies by and suddenly it’s almost Christmas.
For us, Christmas always includes a mix of both Spanish and English traditions, no matter where we spend the holidays. It also usually starts with advent calendars.
From the first day of the month we take it in turns to find the number, open one of the flaps and reveal the surprise inside. We often have chocolate advent calendars, but we also have one that tells the Christmas Story.
When we were small, each day we would select the next little book and read all about the journey to Bethlehem together.
Who would get to read the one on the 24th? It was bigger than the others, it was located right in th middle of the calendar, so it must be important, we reasoned.
It was also the last one we read before Christmas Day, meaning we would soon enjoy yummy food and get to open presents! But mostly it was important because it revealed the reason we celebrated Christmas in the first place, the baby depicted on the front, a clue to the story within.
I was flicking through old photos a few days ago and I realized how many shots of doors I have.
Traditionally, the Christmas Story includes the part where Mary and Joseph go door to door in Bethlehem, searching for somewhere to stay. Each time they knock, they get turned away. Each time they find there is no room.
I recently read again the way it is told in Luke.
[…]and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
There is less talk of knocking and more of finding somewhere to stay. We always focus on the fact that there was no room available. But it’s not surprising, really, when everyone had to show up in town by law, to be counted in the census.
It may not have been glamorous, but Mary and Joseph had somewhere warm to stay during their time in Bethlehem and, even if the house was fit to burst, they were still welcomed in to the space available. Somehow it feels a stable was not provided out of pity, as is sometimes implied, but out of love.
Guest rooms make me think of hospitality, of welcoming others, of including others, of laughter, of fun, of gratitude, of great friends and people who become great friends…
It also probably means washing extra sheets, cooking extra food and sharing your space with a few more people than usual, which can be exhausting. But if we didn’t have them over in the first place we would also miss out on the joy sharing brings. If your guest room was full, would you not also offer your sofa to a friend in need of a place to stay?
My photos of doors reminded me initially of all the closed doors in the typical Nativity play. They always seem to end with the question, how many doors are still closed today during this season?
However, this throws the spotlight on others. What are others not doing? Why are they not doing it? Perhaps, it is time to turn the question back on ourselves.
As Christians, we understandably want the focus to be on Jesus at Christmas. But if that is the case, we need to stop picking the wrong fights.
Yes, there are doors that are closed. Not just to the Saviour whose birth is celebrated at Christmas but also to those he came to save, the doors we keep closing on each other.
We are guilty of closing doors too. In our frantic busyness we are shutting others out. In our hasty judgements we are being unfair, missing the bigger story. We fail to see the shortcomings in ourselves we are so ready to point out in others. In our selfishness we are so focused on what we want, we forget to look beyond our own needs to how we can help others.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus. Yet we cannot limit our knowledge of him to a baby in a manger. This advent season, are we living and loving as Jesus did?
Are we pausing to love one another? Are we there for those closest to us? Are we there for the stranger, the outcast, the foreigner? Are we there for our neighbours?
Christmas may be the time to open doors, but that doesn’t happen by pounding on them and demanding entrance, or demanding others let someone in because we think it’s a good idea. The best way to have more open doors is to open our own door, to invite others in, to show the joy, the love, the peace and the hope that can be found in a home, in a life, that welcomes Jesus. It is up to others whether they choose to do so as well.
So as we open each flap, pocket or door on our advent calendar this year, let’s think about how we are welcoming Christmas in.
What are some of your Christmas traditions?