November 7, 2011
Happy Veterans Day! If you served our country in the military, thank you for what you did. We are sustained and served as a country by patriots like you and your colleagues who set-aside your personal benefit to make yourself vulnerable to harm on our behalf. You’re a Champion; we appreciate you! This week, find a person who served us all, and hand them a $5 S’bucks gift card;they earned it!
The holiday for our friends with a military past is Friday; it appears that this national observance has acquired a new distinctive from the next Big Day. From time immemorial, Thanksgiving has been the starting line for Retail Christmas; this year, the holiday consumer push is already underway.
On the personal level, the year-end modus operandi has a significant social component. Polite society still abhors wife swapping, but date swapping is a cultural mandate.
Date swapping? "Hey, we owe you a dinner. We sure enjoyed that barbecue party at your house on Labor Day! How about coming to our place – with the Whatzees – the Tuesday after Thanksgiving?" Date swapping: you entertained us; we’ll entertain you. What could be more wholesome?
It’s tempting to get into this dine-around – meals swapped by friends – during the holidays… and miss a chance to make points on a similar – but absolutely different – challenge. What is that? The directive to practice hospitality. Wait: I think that’s a “spiritual gift,” and I don’t think I have it. Matrons who make casseroles are the ones with that “gift,” right?
The gift of hospitality? Sounds like a holy endowment for Christian canapés. Does God give some people the knack for gnocchi… and leave the rest of us free to keep the deadbolt set with our La-Z-Boy on full tilt, spending "quality time" with just enough chips for the fam?
When Paul was laying out the Top 20 ways to "make your love sincere," he included a bullet that it’s tough to dodge: "Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (Romans 12:13).
Practice hospitality? There are two words that warrant some examination! Practice doesn’t mean do it a few times to see if you can get it right… and then drop back to a banal baseline. Practice is doctors doing medicine every day. Practice, as in "make it your habit of life." Then, how about hospitality? There’s the kicker! Hospitality isn’t about setting a superior table, or mastering the art of Beef Wellington. The word used there in the Greek (the language of the New Testament) is very pointed in its meaning: its best translation is "love for strangers." Literally, the passage says to you and me: "Make it your habit of life to show love to strangers."
That lines up with the wild idea expressed by Jesus during his earth time. He was a guest at a Sabbath dinner party, in the home of a prominent Pharisee, when this happened: "Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’ " (Luke 14:12-14).
Jesus says it boils down to this: when do you want your payback?
If you’re trolling for invitations in the Spring, go ahead and fill your holiday guest lists with friends, family and neighbors. If their moms raised ’em right, they’ll pay you back by Easter. If you expand your largess to the less fortunate, expecting nothing in return, God says he’ll put it on His tab… and pay you back when He sees you.
Oh, there’s another intriguing incentive: you never know who you’re dealing with when you put a $5 in the hand of that hobo, or send a check to the Rescue Mission for their Thanksgiving spread. Why? "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2).
Break from the date swappers this year… and show a little love to the unknown!