By Katherine Walden
“Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said.”
Isaiah 40:1-11 (The Message)
I HAVE HAD THE BLESSING of being an invited dinner guest in family homes all across North America and in South America and Asia. I have dined on bamboo mats carefully placed over compacted dirt floors; I have eaten in formal dining rooms whose walls were graced with fine and expensive artwork. I have sat at kitchen tables, and at picnic tables and I’ve stood at many campfires, carefully balancing a paper plate and a Styrofoam cup of juice. I have eaten prime rib with all the accompaniments and I have shared a hard-boiled egg with a small bowl of rice between two people. More than once, I ate local delicacies that were foreign to my tongue in many ways. I have been both humbled and blessed by the kind hospitality offered, I have received with a very grateful heart each gift of friendship and fellowship offered me.
Although my hosts’ circumstances greatly varied, my hosts shared two commonalities: preparation and a desire to bless me as their guest. In Northern Ontario, they literally ploughed a road to their door and had snowmobiles ready, in case their Christmas guests needed alternative transport. In Thailand, my hostess rolled up her family bedding, storing it carefully in a corner then used the sleeping mats to form a makeshift table, carefully positioned under a single red paper streamer that was left over from a neighbour’s wedding. Year after year, I have marvelled at the charming and festive decor of a dear friend who truly loves the Christmas season and loves her friends and family even more.
One of my more memorable dining hosts was my own brother, who invited my best friend and me to his bachelor suite for a gourmet meal of boxed macaroni and cheese, with an exotic touch of a can of tuna and frozen mixed vegetables mixed in. My brother was not known for his housekeeping skills and my friend and I braced ourselves for the worst! We were happily surprised that he made room for three people to sit around his table and he had actually washed the plates and cutlery with soap and water, rather than his usual quick rinse under the tap. Our beverages were served in fast-food cups but at least they were plastic cups and had been washed. We closed our eyes to the rest of the clutter; it was the thought that counted. No matter how simple or lavish the meal; each host carefully planned the meal and prepared their homes in anticipation of my arrival.
Although my own circumstances have made it difficult for me to prepare meals for my guests, I do what I can in order to bless them, even if it as simple as heading down to the local store to buy their favourite soft drink. I dust and tidy up, scrub the bathroom as best I can and select music that I hope will be a blessing to play in the background. I make sure I am well rested in order that I can be an attentive and cheerful host and I greet them with open arms.
The month before Christmas is called Advent in churches that follow the liturgical year. The word “advent” is derived from the Latin adventus and means “a coming” or “arrival”. Advent might be defined as a season of preparatory anticipation. At the time of the Roman Empire adventus referred to the arrival of a person of dignity and great power and importance, such as a king. The season of advent provides the perfect opportunity for Christians to stop and consider what their lives were like before they became followers of Jesus, and what their lives are like now because of all his blessings.
In the same manner in which we clean and prepare our homes in the anticipation of welcomed guests and family members, let us also prepare our hearts in anticipation of the Lord’s coming. Christ, our most honoured and eagerly anticipated guest, desires to meet with us in a heart prepared for his arrival. So eager is he to meet with us that he offers to help us with our spiritual housecleaning, working with us, creating a resting place for himself within our hearts.
© Katherine Walden. Used by permission.
Katherine hails from Alberta, Canada from where she heads up I Lift My Eyes Ministries (www.psalm121.ca).
This article first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of FIRST!