If Christmas has some meaning left, it must be about welcoming the stranger…..the ‘other’. Hospitality is at the heart of the Christian message – hospitality – not so much about throwing lavish parties but about creating ‘space’ for the other – making sure that the our inn is not so full of stuff that there is simply no room left for the stranger or closed with its doors locked against the stranger who poses a threat to our neatly ordered.
The beauty of the open heart, with room to spare, is not easy to achieve in a culture which tells us to close ourselves off from the dangerous world around us – where we are taught to protect ourselves and our assets from dilution by the other and focus on ourselves.
And social media, Facebook etc are ensuring that we surround ourselves with like minded people, people whose opinions and prejudices are just like mine – and we end up with ‘my group’ which can lead to hardened borders, divisive elections and divided societies.
We pay our bills, our taxes and in return we get a room in the inn where we can do whatever we like as long as we don’t disturb the people to left or right and keep the stranger out. “We and they” become the hallmarks of our age – an age awash in refugees and climate immigrants.
Can we do things differently this Christmas, this New Year? Can we bring ourselves to have less of the ‘I’ and more of the ‘we’. Can we open our hearts to the stranger in whom the Word lives and who is calling to our boundaried selves to open and widen. Can we create a space within the murky reality of our own confused lives for another human being who is different, alien or challenging for us. For it is the stranger who disarms our perceptions and penetrates our stereotypes about the world who makes the supernatural natural
The disciples on the Road to Emmaus found Jesus by befriending the stranger on the road, by opening their hearts and minds to the outsider.
This Christmas let us pray for a change of heart in our world – so that we can dissolve the hardened forms of separateness and restore our ancient circles of connection – connection with nature, with our neighbour and with the sacred. Make sure there is room in the Inn.