I remember going to family reunions when I was a kid. It enabled me to reconnect with the oldest folks in my family and hear their stories.
Some conversations would always revolve around church. There was a time when churches would put a sign out that said “Visitors Welcome.” And I always wondered why that was needed. I mean, shouldn’t everybody assume that they are welcome in a church.
It seems that after WW2 there were a lot of soldiers trying to get home after coming back from the war. Many of them hitchhiked or walked their way to their home places. Churches sought to capture and serve these soldiers primarily by putting out the sign “Visitors Welcome.” Strangely, to some degree, many churches still display that sign as part of their marketing plan long after the soldiers have made it back home.
This Sunday many of us are enjoying more close relatives as visitors to our home, but even more of us perhaps are experiencing for the first time an unwelcome distance from the physical separation we are engaged in now. This weekend, above all other weekends, is the time we expect visitors at home and in the church. But this year is different, and it is very disappointing to many of us. Maybe the loss will serve a great purpose in our lives. Make us more grateful to have each other, more grateful in getting together when we have the opportunity. More intentional to hold each other close and tell each other how much we mean to each other. Maybe. We’ve had a long time to learn the lesson. Just maybe.
But let’s not forget how Christmas time is meant to draw a crowd. Is meant to see one another as God sees us. The stranger among us at this time of year doesn’t seem strange at all, but expected, and welcomed as part of a great community. That is what Christmas does. Even if we aren’t able to put the lesson into practice right away, I pray that you and I have learned it deeply.