Day 2: Embrace The Mess - Hospitality for the Holiday Season

Day 2: Embrace the Mess

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 (NIV)

I can just picture an exasperated Martha.

Company is on the way—company that includes Jesus no less!—and there is so much to be done. The kids’ socks and underwear are draped over every piece of furniture. Toy cars are covering the living room floor. The play kitchen is overflowing with play dishes, as is the real kitchen, but there is nothing to serve the guests on their way.

You are rushing to get everything done, pleading with your family to help.

“Tommy, pick up your cars. Mary, clean your kitchen. Honey, please help me put away the laundry! Company will be here soon!”

You hear them giggling in the living room as your husband invents a new game; it’s like they can’t even hear you. You scramble to do it all yourself, huffing and puffing all the while. What kind of host welcomes their guest into a messy home?

Then Jesus arrives. You apologize profusely for the mess…and he scolds you. He doesn’t want your clean house. He wants your presence. And in your fury, you are completely unable to settle down and truly be present with him.

Welcoming others into our home is such a wonderful gift. It blesses both the host and the guest, both of whom give up their time to be with each other. It is natural and good to want to make our home as welcoming as possible for guests.

But how often have you failed to invite people over because the preparation was too hard? Or because you were embarrassed for them to see the space you live in day-to-day?

The pressure to have the perfect home before inviting people into it is high. It can keep us from hosting others at all. But not only that—our perfect home can actually be a hindrance to good conversation too.

Let’s put ourselves in our guest’s shoes for a moment. Have you ever been to someone’s house and everything was so perfectly put together that you felt ashamed of your own home?

They are so put together. I could never live up, you probably thought to yourself.

Did you ever stop to consider what might be lurking behind that pristine facade? Or did the beautiful home convince you that your friend’s marriage, kids, and job must all be in perfect order too?

When Jesus chides Martha, he doesn’t say that wanting to be a gracious host is bad. Instead, he is saying that the most important thing is to be present with our guests. And all kinds of good intentions can keep us from really being present with our guests. In fact, welcoming our guests into the messy reality of our everyday can be a gift both to us and to them. It lowers the stakes of hospitality, making it easier to have people over at the last minute. It’s also an invitation to drop the walls that keep us from truly being known. It tells our guests, I’m a real person with real stress and also real joy! I want to share the things that are good and the things that are hard with you, and I hope you’ll do the same with me.

What would it look like for you to embrace the mess and invite friends into your daily reality this season?

Kitchen Tip: Consider having a simple snack on hand at all times that you can offer to guests—tea and dried fruit or nuts, perhaps. These tasty treats are low-cost and they keep for a long time, which means you can always have them prepped for an unexpected friend that swings by. This simple preparation will allow you to extend hospitality without the stress of extensive preparation, showing welcome even in the craziness of your daily routine.

From the Book: