As we prepare for our Christmas Eve worship gathering we know to expect many guests to gather with our faith family. Just as we would do welcoming guests into our home, we intend to do all we can to prepare to make our guests feel welcome and loved this Sunday. A church that understands it’s calling well will value the calling to hospitality. Hospitality should not be reserved only for special occasions, but on this special Sunday where we celebrate the arrival of our Savior, we recognize the opportunities for hospitality increase dramatically. Here are a few simple tips to keep in mind as we gather for worship this Christmas Eve!
It is statistically proven that the number one reason someone comes to church is because they were invited by a friend, neighbor, or loved one. Don’t make assumptions about others plans. We have no idea how many people in our lives are simply waiting for an invitation. Sure, we could easily say, “They know they are welcome,” “They’ll come if they want to,” or “I’m sure they have plans.” But how much trouble does it take for us to extend an invitation? What if your friend or neighbor is saying to themselves “I wish I felt welcome,” “They’ll invite me, if they want me to come,” or “I’m sure they already made plans.” We can never know what lies the enemy has convinced our friends of. We who have been undeservedly welcomed into the family of God should go out of our way to extend the invitation of fellowship to those around us! Make the invitation, ask them if they need a ride, save them seats. Do whatever you can to eliminate the obstacles.
Come Early, Sit Later.
Hospitality doesn’t end after the invitation is extended. Again consider how we treat guests who come to our home. We don’t invite them in, only to ignore them once they’ve arrived. Can you imagine how awkward it would be to open your front door, pointed to the couch, the bathroom, the fridge and then ignored your guest the rest of the evening? That scene might be comical to watch on the movie screen, but it would be terrible to live out in real life. Yet, this is sometimes the way we can treat guests who gather with us in worship. We open the door, shake their hand, smile, and then go about our routine. This Christmas I encourage you to go out of your way to express your joy in seeing new friends gather with you. Arrive to worship early and encourage others in your faith family to do the same. Spread out rather than clumping together. Don’t arrive early simply to get a good seat. Rather get there early so that you can be available to welcome others. When friends and guests arrive, help them as they shuffle their kids in. Keep in mind that all of this might be totally new and foreign to them. There are few things more brave than stepping into a new church for the very first time. Go with them to the coffee station. Introduce them to other friends in your faith family. Help them find a seat and sit with them awhile. Imagine if the church, the people of God, as a whole took on this responsibility. What if everyone who walked into the house of God was welcomed by His people as if they were personal guests? They may not be your personal guests but God in his sovereignty has brought each and every person that walks through our doors to gather with us. Let us treat them as guests of the King!
Park Far. Sit close.
Scripture calls us to consider others greater than ourselves. (Phil 2:3) Jesus modeled this for us with his life. The greatest man who ever lived sacrificed all so that we might be called the righteousness of God! (2 Cor 5:21). One of the easiest ways we can demonstrate our understanding of this truth is the way consider others when we gather for worship. This starts in the parking lot. If you are physically able, take a spot that is far off. Imagine a guest arriving and getting a close parking spot. What if that simple moment of pulling into a great parking spot shows them that God has brought them to this place for a purpose? We can’t ever know how God will speak or soften hearts to hear from him. As you make that walk through the parking lot, pray over the empty spots you pass and ask the Lord to fill them with people who do not yet know him. As you make your way inside and begin to find a seat for your family, get as close as possible. When you go up front, there is room left in the back.
Place yourself in this scene: You are the Dad or Mom who has just decided that this was the year to go to church on Christmas. The year has been tough and perhaps God has something to say about it. It wasn’t in the plan for the day, but let’s go anyway. If nothing else it should be a break from the stress and the church will probably be warm and decorated nicely. You scramble to get the kids ready, somewhat against their will, and make your way to church. Of course, you arrive a few minutes late. You walk into a totally foreign place, stressed out, and then see the only room for your family is on the third row. You have to walk down the aisle, feeling as if every eye is on you. Your encounter with the church begins with stress and embarrassment. You think to yourself, we should’ve just stayed home.
We’ve all been there at least once. We all know how stressful it feels to be late to anything, let alone church! Let’s do all we can to not add to the embarrassment. As I said earlier, God in his sovereignty has drawn the people to gather for worship. We must realize the tremendous faith it takes to show up as a guest to church. A tiny amount of sacrifice on your part might be a huge blessing for someone else. Sitting up front is a simple act of love that will leave some room at the back of the worship space for late arrivals.
We celebrate the incarnation of God at Christmas. God came to be with us in the person of Jesus Christ! I am trusting God to make himself known this Sunday as the church gathers to worship Him and proclaim His word. I encourage you to recognize the tremendous opportunity and responsibility God has given us this Christmas and each Sunday. Let us be a physical demonstration of God’s love and do everything we can to acknowledge the faith it took for our guests to join us. Let us prepare them room.