A young boy smiled delightedly at the line of children waiting at his front door. He clapped his hands awkwardly and looked to his mother for verification that it was really true—his entire class had showed up for his Christmas party. And his mother smiled back down at her sweet son, her son who must face the world through the lens of Down syndrome. She thought of all the times he had not been invited to a birthday party, of all the times when people came up with a reasonable excuse for why a play date would not work. But not this time, this year, this Christmas. His friends were on his doorstep, waiting to see him.
Personally, I will never forget this Christmas party which my oldest daughter attended as a kindergartner. I thought about how I might have treated a fellow classmate with Down syndrome if not for such a compassionate, gracious, and intentional mother who paved a way to show all of us how to love others well, including her son who faces unique challenges. She showed us how to welcome her son into our lives by welcoming us into her home first. This family’s kindness impressed deeply upon my heart. Every guest took a personal picture with their host. This happy boy showed everyone the spread of goodies on the kitchen table. He beamed over the craft table. Later, his mother read all the children a book that could help them understand how to be friends with her son, explaining such things as how to offer a high five if they thought his bear hug might knock them over. She wrote the book herself and she gave every child a copy to take home. The pictures from the beginning of the party were placed in ornaments for each child. We still have the ornament her little boy gave my little girl that day, a clear plastic sphere with a picture of both children inside, each one smiling brightly.
To be welcome is to be accepted or anticipated with eagerness and delight, often because it answers a need. The picture-perfect definition of being welcome is this small boy’s joyous face upon seeing the face of my daughter on the other side of his front door. Think of having a welcome visitor, a welcome break, a welcome word of encouragement. What are the things, the people, the emotions, or the adventures that you welcome?
There are so many reasons to reject or to snub or to ignore. We judge. We fear. We defend. We give up. We tire. We are blind. Yet people who follow Christ and seek to love as he loved and serve as he served must be a welcoming people. This Christmas season, let’s remember the power of the word “welcome.” We can lay our hurts at being unwelcome at the feet of our beloved Lord Jesus. We can ask for eyes to see those who do not feel like they belong, who need a warm welcome in some specific way. We can be gracious and kind, even stepping outside of our familiar circles if need be. We can ask God for hearts that are eager and delighted to serve and love another. It does not have to be a complicated muddle of to-do lists and tangled lights. Welcoming others or giving a welcome gift happens in the moment, with a genuine smile, a meaningful hug, a word of encouragement, a carefully closed box of donations, a cookie shared, an invitation to tea or for company on a walk around the block, a warm cup of soup passing from a steady hand to a trembling one, a chorus of young voices raised in joyous delight before God while in front of an audience in wheelchairs and hospital gowns. And when we are welcoming, we teach others how to be that way, too.
Even as we greatly anticipate and prepare to celebrate the day that the world first welcomed the Christ child, let us not forget that it is our God who first welcomed us into His family, and it is our sweet Savior who reminds us that whatever we do for others, we do for him.
Merry Christmas to you all.
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17
He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him. Proverbs 14:31