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An Occasional Blog by The Reverend Grace P. Burson, Holy Trinity's Associate Transitional Pastor
In this holiday season, we hear a lot about welcome. The essence of the Christmas story is about God welcoming humanity: by taking on our flesh, joining God to humankind, God welcomes us into God’s divine identity. But welcome is also enacted in the story of a poor family looking for lodging in a crowded Bethlehem: after being turned away because “there was no room in the inn,” they bed down with the animals, who witness the birth of Imanuel, God with us. When there was no room in the conventional place for visitors, the poor and humble (and nonhuman!) made room for the Christ Child. Likewise, the shepherds were welcomed as visitors to Jesus’ crib alongside powerful wise men.
As a community that follows Jesus, welcome is one of our duties. And in recent weeks, as I’ve gotten my head around the knowledge that my time here at Holy Trinity is rapidly running out, I’ve noticed even more clearly the ways in which this congregation welcomes each other and helps each other out.
On a recent Sunday, young boys from three different families helped bring up the offertory. Multiple people pitched in to cover for an acolyte who couldn’t be at church, so that the service would run smoothly. A member of the confirmation class was at the sound board, learning how to run it from an experienced volunteer. New families had signed up to participate in the Christmas pageant.
This is the way a church works when people feel welcome. In order for folks of all ages to stick their necks out and try something new, they must be confident that their gifts are welcomed, their questions are welcomed, and their efforts are welcomed – that even if they don’t always know where to go or what to do, the people who do know those things will be glad that they tried and will help them learn the ropes so that they can participate fully in ministry.
It makes my heart glad when I see these signs of welcome. And Holy Trinity is pretty good at welcoming newcomers to worship, too. Our ministry of welcome is also lived out in our deepening relationship with Imanuel Indonesian Lutheran Church and our ongoing advocacy for all our neighbors on the Seacoast who wish to live in this country in peace.
Of course, there are always more ways we can live into this ministry of welcome. Soon after Christmas, Holy Trinity will welcome a new pastor. How will you demonstrate that welcome? And how, this Advent and Christmas, can you welcome those whom Christ would welcome – the lonely, the hungry, the sick and the suffering – and show them the hospitality of God?
In God’s peace,