A Place of Welcome

By Fr Robin, Holy Angels Catholic Church in Ash

As I was celebrating mass on the evening of All Saints Day, there were the ubiquitous fireworks whizzing and blazing outside. It struck me powerfully how these simple celebrations draw us in. My children rush to the window every year to gaze in wonder at the spectacle.

Meanwhile, quietly, with candles and softer music in the church, we are celebrating a deeper and lasting joy, that of the saints and the angels. If only we could see them they would dazzle us far more than the fireworks, and their joy does not fizzle quickly into darkness.

Christmas can be a similar experience for many of us. We are all hoping that this Christmas our celebrations will be much closer to normal. We will be able to enjoy carols, and celebrations with family and friends. Most of us intend to visit more and welcome others into our homes, in a way that will seem fresh and wonderful.

But it’s also true that our Christmas celebrations can easily miss the mark with twinkling lights, rich food and parties that are good, but also pass quickly, and ornaments that are packed away into the loft again, waiting for another year.

It’s right to celebrate God’s gift of love to the world with all the family and social joy and celebrations that we do. It’s sad if we forget to receive God’s gift as well.

Many of you will have some experience of the Posada tradition, perhaps through school. Every year at least one of my children bring a little travelling nativity set home from the school. Posada means inn in Spanish and the idea is to be the place of welcome to Mary and Joseph and their unborn child that they did not find in Bethlehem.

Perhaps like me the bag containing the nativity set suddenly emerges from a child’s bag at bedtime and so little more than a quick picture is taken.

An invitation to welcome Jesus, arriving in the womb of Mary, and to let our lives be transformed into places of welcome can easily be discarded or placed to one-side, quickly placed back in the school bag to go to another family.

Our whole Christmas celebrations can be like that, a missed invitation. Just as at Bethlehem, Jesus does not come to us with the fanfare of a Christmas party, or the latest Christmas music, or must-have present. All of which can be great, and yet are quickly over. He comes to us quietly and invites us to begin a real encounter with him, perhaps to renew a relationship that we have put aside or forgotten about in the dark times we have been living through.

This Christmas, we are invited to make our churches, our homes and our hearts places of welcome, not just to each other, but to Jesus as well. And whether my children are invited to take part in the Posada tradition or not this year, I’m going make sure that I respond to that invitation.

Fr Robin