Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Preparing to Host

Observing my parents host Christmas dinner over the years has become a familiar cadence of cooking, cleaning, decorating and waiting.  Lists of prioritized tasks litter the cabinets.  A list of things to collect.  Folding chairs from Mother and Daddy.  Things to do.  Decorate porch.  Wrap presents.  Food to prepare. Bake sticky buns. Thaw roast. Peel potatoes. The rate of activity accelerates predictably as the anticipated day approaches, until the morning of the festive day.

             This moment holds its breath.
A nostalgic view

We pause, Mom, Dad, and I, over a breakfast of sticky buns and coffee.  We comment on the weather, our hope for a white Christmas never completely defeated until the day's end.  Dad looks out the window over his few acres with satisfaction--a garden asleep for the winter, a fattening calf, unseen hens nestled in their coop.  Mornings such as this, remind me how much my family has given me, and how little is required for an abundant life. We get lost in the warmth of the winter kitchen, not avoiding our work ahead, but not overly aware of it either.

Until that moment, the inevitable moment, when my mother realizes we've lingered too long.  There is no more tarrying after this. The last minute preparations have begun!  "Lengthen the table."  "How many place settings? 15? 16?"  The whir of the mixing mashed potatoes drowns out the answer.

The flurry continues until all the dust is dusted, the place settings placed and the roast, roasted.  Any overlooked preparations would remain unattended to for the time has come.  The guests are arriving.  The celebration begins.

My father, from whom I inherited my optimistic time management, cinches his belt just in time.  The doorbell rings, as if cued by his tucked in shirttail.  Little ones, eager to bound into Grandma's festive home--there is nothing quite like a Grandmother's house at Christmastime--leave no space for the doorbell to resolve its refrain.  Di- di- di- di- di-dong!  The overworked chime sighs its final note, but its conclusion is lost amid a chorus of  "Come in!  Come in!"  "Merry Christmas!" "How was the drive?"  The kiddies slip past a jungle of towering legs and through the welcome opening that separates the crisp winter evening from the smell of Christmas dinner, the soft light of the Christmas tree, and the warmth of home.

The week of cooking, cleaning, and anticipating will be consumed, dirtied and over by bedtime that evening. Hospitality is odd that way.

Advent is our time of preparation for a spiritual hospitality.  To make our inner homes a worthy dwelling place for a King.  "Prepare the way of the Lord!" exhorts John the Baptist.  Clear the cobwebs of bitterness!  Prepare the feast of a grateful heart!  Set a place setting worthy of your Lord!

Yet, is it because of our preparation that the holy chooses to come to our house?  Or will he come whether the table is set or not?  Will he come if we have overslept? Or couldn't afford a feast? Or had to work?  Or were too busy grieving the loss of a child, father or friend?  Will he come whether we are prepared or not?

Before receiving the body and blood of Christ we pray:
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
I wonder if our most important preparation this season is simply to cry out for help.  To ask our Lord to simply say a word and in doing so, healing our soul.

What are your thoughts?  How should we prepare for the coming of a King?


  1. Thanks, Lisa, for writing this. You make it easy for me to picture your dad "cinching his belt" and the kids rushing in!

    Also, I appreciate the last part. These last few months have been a stretch for me in some ways. I feel like I have done a lot of crying out. It is comforting to think of that as advent preparation.

    Have a wonderful holiday,

    1. Thank you for sharing, Tricia.

      I pray the Christmas season will be an opportunity to receive extra heapings of grace!