My parents have been visiting this past week. They will go home Wednesday, and we will miss them like crazy. They watched our kids this weekend so we could have a little getaway, and all the other days we have spent with them and with my brother and sister in law.
There's no one like family.
They come over, and everyone helps in the kitchen. Dad asks for a list of things that need fixing, and appoints himself chief dish washer. The kids play and fight and take turns in time out. Mom watches the kids so I can go to appointments and shop solo. We try out new recipes and revisit old favourites. When energy flags, someone has usually made a pot of coffee. It's a comfort and a blessing, to be with family.
So I was really surprised to read the instructions in Leviticus for loving your brother. Check this out: "If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you." (chapter 5, verse 35) Support him as though he were a stranger and sojourner - with the implication being that such a person would be well treated?! So then I had to look up instructions for welcoming strangers and sojourners. Turns out ... "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
I love that God requires us to be hospitable. I love it because it means He is hospitable. And yes, the psalmist begs God to care for him on the basis of his being God's sojourner, God's guest: "Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers." (Psalm chapter 39, verse 12.)
Especially at Christmas, this teaching boggles the mind. At Christmas, when love for our family is easy and rich, when we make plans for one another's comfort and joy, when we rejoice to care for our brothers and sisters, our moms and dads - this is how we should care for strangers and travelers. This is how we should care for the homeless. This is how we should welcome people who aren't our family - and how we should welcome our family, too.
Because that's what Jesus did. For us.
To love us as Himself.
To make us strangers, His brothers.
To stretch His arms wide in outrageous hospitality, and welcome all who come to Him.
He loves us as Himself.
Gave His life to swing the door wide open.
And we are loved and welcomed like family.
Merry Christmas, sisters.
Merry Christmas, brothers.