Many Christmases ago when family was coming for the very first time, I wanted everything to be greeting-card perfect. I planned my menu long in advance. I cleaned and decorated, making everything look nice. I even hollowed out oranges the night before the big meal, cutting different shapes into the rinds. (I’d read it in a magazine. It was a ridiculous amount of work.) Overnight the oranges shriveled up. I should have wrapped them in wet cloths, but the instructions didn’t say that.
Needless to say, they didn’t look so great on the table, but when I lit the tea lights inside, they smelled nice. I’ve attempted to do hospitality by the book, but there are aspects of hospitality that I’ve completely missed.
One day not too long before my husband Mel and I were married, we were out for a drive when he stopped at his friends’ house, Geraldine and Merlyn. It was noon. “They might be eating,” I said. “Maybe we should come back later.”
“Nah,” Mel said. “It’ll be fine.” He was confident. Me, not so much.
Connie and Keith were also there. They’re Mel’s friends I’d met just the week before with another couple, Steve and Sherry. Connie had been our lovely hostess for dinner that night. Sherry baked a delicious pie. In looking back, Mel was excited to introduce me to his friends. Maybe a small part of him wanted their approval as well.
All four were seated at the table now ready to eat. Before we were even at the door, Geraldine got up and put two more plates on the table. There was no hesitation. She made room for us. Even though we’d never met before, she treated me like a long-lost friend. “Come on in! There’s plenty of food!” she said.
There was and it was delicious. But even more pleasant was the fellowship. It was a wonderful afternoon where time meandered around laughter, remembrances, sharing, and getting to know one another all wrapped up in our mutual faith in the Lord.
I felt at home. That’s part of hospitality. Putting others at ease. Make them feel truly welcome at your table. And if you’re like Geraldine, you’ll always have more than you need in case you have the opportunity to give to someone else.
Another thing I learned about hospitality is to make room for others in your life. Another time, Mel wanted me to meet his cousin, Keith, and his wife, Fern. We just showed up at their house. I suggested we call first, but Mel said, “Nah, we don’t need to.”
It was past lunch time, but before the evening meal. Fern made us coffee and gave us a little treat. Again, she was a hostess like Geraldine. Making us feel welcome by making room for us at the table. We had a wonderful time. I’m so glad we had that afternoon with them. Keith passed away at the end of December. I’m thankful that I can hold that memory of that day in my heart.
Jesus also made room for others. He told Zacchaeus, a hated tax collector, that he was coming to his house. Zacchaeus not only welcomed Jesus, he completely did a one-eighty in his life. He was transformed because Jesus made room for him in his life and in his kingdom. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is the son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’” (Luke 19:9-10).
Another time Jesus was sitting at Simon the Pharisee’s table. Not the best host, Simon didn’t offer to have his servant wash Jesus’ tired, dusty feet. He didn’t anoint his head with oil or give him the traditional kiss of greeting.
Yet when a woman with a bad reputation heard that Jesus was there, she washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. She kissed his feet and anointed them with expensive perfume. Jesus made room for her at the table and her life was never the same.
Hospitality. It’s more than merely cooking or carving shapes into the sides of hollowed out oranges. We are called to make room at our tables for others. That’s what Jesus did and we are called to be like him. “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6).
At the end of our lives, the Lamb of God will say to believers, “Come to the table the feast is ready.” The greatest hospitality we can offer others is to make sure they know the host of that feast, Jesus Christ. We can give them an invitation, but they have to open it. If they do, they will know grace-filled living like nothing we’ve ever experienced or imagined.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Jesus is the ultimate host. May we all accept his invitation to dine with him and may we ask others to join us. The very best hospitality we can offer is a place at Jesus’ table.
Kathy Yoder is a devotional writer. She may be reached at email@example.com.