December 2015 Newsletter article
December 1, 2015, 12:00 AM

Grace and peace to y’all!

Last month I had a chance to go to Lutheridge (one of my favorite places in the whole world) and gather with other rostered leaders (pastors, associates in ministry, and deaconesses) in our synod for our annual Rostered Leaders Convocation. It was a wonderful time to spend a bit of time in what I consider one of the most holy places in the southeast and in my life.

While we were there, we were engaged in a Bible study that I found to be particularly mind-blowing. It was led by one of my friends, colleagues, and pastors I strive to be like – Jay Gamelin who is a pastor at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Lexington, SC.

His bible study on our final day at Convocation was gearing us towards Advent and Christmas. He told us the story that we all know and love. The story of Joseph and Mary traveling because of a census to Bethlehem where his family was from and while there Mary is about to give birth. When they reach Bethlehem, they are told that there is no room in the inn, so she had to lay her newborn – our Lord Jesus – into a manger.

Now, the way that this story has been told countless times is that the Holy Family was rejected and sent away. That they were sent away from a designated area that people who didn’t live in a town stayed at (a hotel/inn). However, when we dive into the original language of the text, we discover something interesting. The word (kataluma/kataluma) translated as ‘inn’ in Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth doesn’t necessarily mean ‘inn.’ It can more accurately be translated as guestroom. This same word is used in Luke 22:11 and is translated as ‘guestroom’ there. In the Good Samaritan story (Luke 10: 25-37) the Samaritan leaves the man he helps at an inn/hotel – a pandocheion/pandoceion (Luke 10:37) which is traditionally only translated as an establishment to house people.

Now, all the scripture says is that there wasn’t a room in the inn/guestroom and that Jesus was placed in a manger. There is no drama surrounding that verse – no heartless innkeeper, no words on being rejected at countless places before finally settling in a barn (when in fact no barn is even mentioned in Luke’s gospel – no animals or anything)! We as a people have embellished a little and inserted what we think is going on as opposed to what is actually written in the text.

The way a typical home was designed during this time was pretty ‘all inclusive’ There was an area for animals and equipment at the front of the home, a center area where the family stayed, and a back area where the guestroom was. So, the ‘guestroom’ was already filled, but there is no word that Mary and Joseph were sent away, so we can assume that space was made available to them in that home they went to.

So, perhaps this story of Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem isn’t so much a story of the rejection of our Lord, but instead an invitation of radical hospitality. Where instead of the story being about the Holy Family being sent away, the story may more accurately be told as making space for the birth of the Lord Jesus. Pastor Jay likened it to today where if someone came to his home – but his guestroom was filled, that he’d offer his own bed instead – radical hospitality.

So, as we approach the Advent season we will be bombarded with so many distractions around us – voices about what to buy and why you should buy it, being ‘jolly’ in every way possible, filling our free time as much as possible to make this holiday season more ‘full’ and ‘memorable.’

Yet, maybe this time of year – as we wait in expectant hope of our Lord Jesus – would be better spent finding ways to make space to Jesus in our lives. Where we can live out this story of opening our lives and our hearts in invitation of radical hospitality.

Where this Advent and Christmas we follow in the footsteps of the family who housed the family by making space for the Holy and mysterious. Where we welcome in radical hospitality those who are different from us who are in need. Where we find ways to help and to serve and to be with all of our neighbors during this time of expectant hope.

Where we gather in worship at the table where space has been made for us. As Jesus invites us to eat and drink surrounded by one another and those we don’t know. As we are filled to be sent out to proclaim God’s radical hospitality to the world.

There is so much going on here at The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer this Advent and Christmas – from numerous opportunities to worship (both on Wednesdays with Holden Evening Prayer and our Christmas Eve services), to be in service with those around us – through our Angel Tree ministry, to continue to hear the story of our Lord’s birth through our Children’s Christmas program. There are those opportunities and so much more!

So, make space this year as we wait in expectant hope of God’s in-breaking into the world in the birth of the Son – our Lord Jesus who is the Christ!

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