One was an open letter responding to Suze Orman’s counsel to a young couple that they couldn’t afford to have a second child because in Suze’s world, babies add an extra “$700-$1000 a month” to the budget. (What!?!—I guess we didn’t get the silver spoon variety.) Instead Suze told the mama, desperate to be home with her little ones in the early years, that “financially speaking, it’s just not a good thing to do.” This was preceded by her critically asking “Why do you have to have another baby right now?” The other story was that of the Duggars’ recently announcing that they were expecting, and then sadly had miscarried, their 20th child. When Today Show host Ann Curry jokingly asked, “Why isn’t 19 enough for you?” Mrs. Duggar simply replied, “Well, we have the motto around our house that there’s always room for one more.”
Now this baby-mama has no plans for 19 or 9 babies for that matter, but even I could recognize the glaring disparity between the two perspectives. For Suze Orman, babies are an expensive liability; for the Duggars, they are a gift. At this point you’re probably asking yourself, savvy reader that you are, what does all this has to do with hospitality? Trust me, there’s a link.
As I was mulling over these stories this week, in combination with prepping for Christmas, I couldn’t escape how much our world today is just like the one that a fragile infant boy entered two thousand years ago. How cold, how unwelcoming, how inhospitable. And in the middle of all that philosophical meandering, it struck me that this, then, was the essence of hospitality–the belief that there is always room for one more. Whether it’s setting one more place at the table, making an extra bed, or adding a member to the family, hospitality says there is always room for one more.
But this isn’t our world and it’s not the world that the baby Jesus came to either. Ours is a world consumed with our own issues and wants; it’s a world where we cling to our stuff and space with cold, grasping fingers, fearful that even a little baby could take them from us.
Yet, while this may be our world, it isn’t our God.
From the beginning, He has been a God of warmth and welcome, of hospitality and care. When He transformed that swirling mass of darkness into a verdant garden, He said, “Here is a place for you –a place of beauty and wonder. Go fill it, share it with others.” When He brought His slave-children out of the heat of Egypt into the pleasant watered valleys of Jordan, He told them, “Welcome home, enjoy this land and share it. Just as I took pity you, take pity on others. Open your doors, feed the poor, take care of strangers.” And when facing that final rejection, before He broke the bread and then His own body, He told us, “Take, eat and drink. I’m going to make room for you in my Father’s house. I will come back for you.Until then, take care of each other and share what you have.”
And so, in so many ways, Christmas reminds us that He came into a world that had no room—no room for Him or anyone else–precisely to make room for us and to teach us how to make room for others.
In a couple weeks, my family will be spending several days at my sister-in-law’s home. We’re a family of five; they’re six with one on the way. The children range in age from eight to two. The house is 1100 sq. ft. You do the math–there really isn’t enough space for all of us. But there is plenty of room. There’s room because we choose to make it through sacrifice and love. There’s room because we’re willing to give up our space and comfort. There’s room because we believe that the inconvenience of adjusting to tighter quarters is nothing compared to the joy of being with one another.
And so unlike that first Christmas, when the world said that there wasn’t room for one more baby—no matter Who he was—we say, there’s always room. Room for friends, room for strangers, room for little ones. There’s always room for one more because He came so many years ago and made room for us.