"And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.'"
- Luke 14:23
My first day of junior high school was brutal. I didn’t know where to go for my classes. I couldn’t open my locker. When I finally did, I spent the day deathly afraid an upperclassmen would lock me in it.
But nothing was worse than the cafeteria at lunch time. The cafeteria was a sprawling, sterile space. Endless tables. Endless benches. A sea of unfamiliar faces. I looked for somebody, anybody to sit with me. Utterly bewildered, I wandered with my tray until I finally sat down across from a girl who seemed as desperate as me. We just stared silently at one another, slowly stuffing government subsidized pizza into the dark abyss of our lonely souls.
I hated that school. I never felt at home in it. It wasn’t a place to thrive. It was a place to survive.
Thankfully, we later moved. In a new school, I had a chance for a fresh start. The students were much kinder and much more welcoming. From the very beginning, they greeted me warmly and included me generously. As I walked into my new cafeteria for lunch, several invited me to sit with them. Some even crowded together to make room for me. I felt included and loved from the start, and that made all the difference.
As a pastor, it grieves me that the church can sometimes feel more like a middle school cafeteria on the first day of school than a feast table surrounded by loving friends and family all crowding together to make room for more. That’s not what our Father desires.
Did you know that Jesus likened his kingdom to a great banquet, one with a huge guest list (Luke 14:15-24)? He did. And while he knows that some will decline the invitation, he also knows that it’s his Father’s will to keep inviting more and more to the feast table. Our God is throwing the best party, and he wants to "pack the house."
Child of God: The Advent season is a reminder that God’s makes room at his table for any and all. It’s a reminder that even though the world made no room for Jesus at the time of his birth, God is still making room for us. So, grab a seat for yourself, but also “scoot in” nice and close. Let’s make room for many, many more. This party is only getting started.
You’re loved. Don’t forget it.
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