Making Room for the Familiar Stranger

December 28, 2012

Luke 2:6-7 (The Message)

"She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in hostel."

Martin B. Copenhaver

I have always loved the writings of Dylan Thomas, particularly his short stories.  His prose sounds more like poetry than most poems do.

So, when our children were still young, I was excited to take my family to a play adapted from Thomas' story, A Child's Christmas in Wales. It was a smashing success.  Our children were enthralled.  I was delighted to think we had created a new family holiday tradition. 

For six years running we went to see the production.  It felt like a Christmas liturgy that did not need to be changed from one year to the next.  And I always looked forward to it.

Then one year the theatre company did not stage the play.  I had to break the news to my family.
After a few understated expressions of sorrow, our daughter tentatively ventured, "You know, Dad, I think it's really okay.  To tell you the truth, I never really did like A Child's Christmas in Wales."

Our son immediately jumped in: "I'm so glad to hear you say that.  I thought I was the only one."

"You never liked it?" I asked.

"Sorry, Dad.  Like… never."

I turned to my wife.  She just shook her head.

It turns out that no one else in my family enjoyed A Child's Christmas in Wales.  They all found it excruciatingly boring.  But for years they did not tell me and they had not told one another, either.

In its fullest sense, hospitality is making room for the stranger.  But sometimes the one we are making room for is that strange one who is very familiar.  And when we make room for a stranger (whether someone we have never met or someone with whom we share a roof), in all of his flaws and odd devotions (like to A Child's Christmas in Wales), we are making room for Jesus.  After all, Jesus told his followers that when we make room for the stranger, we are making room for him.

Prayer

God, help me to make room for the strangers in my life—both those I don't know and those I know so very well.

About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.

Looking for a way to say "thanks" to someone at church? Click here to preview and order How Can We Thank You?, a new collection of reflections from the Stillspeaking Writers' Group.

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