Often, my house serves as the place for family and friends to converge during the holidays. Knowing that family and friends look forward to breaking bread and enjoying each other’s company in my home is a privilege I do not take lightly.
Before everyone arrives, we spend time cleaning, cooking, and generally preparing the house to make sure everyone is comfortable and relaxed during our time of fellowship and merriment. We all look forward to seeing the familiar faces as well as the new faces every year.
As is common for first or second time guests, they normally ask if there is anything they can bring or anyway they can help during the festivities. In the first few years of hosting, I would always answer those questions with a resounding no; I would assure them that showing up is enough, which is very true. Over the years, I realized that people feel more comfortable and relaxed when they are able to bring or do something for the occasion; so, I changed my response to allow each person/family member to contribute to the occasion however they feel comfortable.
My family likes to embrace everyone who walks in the door as though they are family.
However, even with a warm embrace, new faces don’t always loosen up completely. Understandably, they slowly let their guards down as they become more comfortable. While we like to jest with those who attend festivities on more than 2 occasions that they have moved from the guest realm to being considered family members, there is truly a noticeable transition for most. I observed over the years how people would move from being guests to rolling up their sleeves and jumping in to help wherever possible.
Seeing that transition always warms up my heart because it indicates to me that those people feel like family; they feel like they belong. They move beyond being guests at an occasion and start to behave like the rest of the family. They move from being spectators to participants. They help to setup anything that needs to be setup, clean up anything that needs to be cleaned, serve food to those who can’t serve themselves, and help to pack up and clean when the night draws to an end. They do all this not from a place of obligation but with the knowledge that participating helps to build community and strengthens the bond of family.
I always imagine that our Heavenly Father also takes great joy in seeing His children move from feeling like guests in His house to behaving like family. I imagine that it warms His heart to see His children looking forward to being in His house and rolling up their sleeves to help with the festivities in anyway they can. I imagine that He smiles when He sees His children inviting new faces to join in the celebration and going out of their way to make the new faces feel like they belong. I imagine He beams with pride when He sees His children looking past all the superficial layers and loving each other in a way that brightly shines His glory into the world.
“We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; and by giving thanks with joy to the Father.”