December 5, 2021: Welcoming Spaces

Second Sunday of Advent

Welcoming Spaces

Theologian and priest Henri Nouwen writes, “The whole meaning of the Christian community lies in offering a space in which we wait for that we have already seen.” * Yet today we are challenged to ask, To whom are we offering such a space? For whom are we preparing for the Lord’s coming? Is it for our congregation, brothers and sisters we know, who have committed to this faith community? Is it for the ones who are easy to love, the friends we see each Sunday or the ones with whom we have grown familiar?

John the Baptist bursts into our season of Advent preparation and space-creation with a challenge each year. His first challenge is for us to turn around—to see with fresh eyes how and what we are doing. His word “Repent” literally means just that.

His second challenge—how are we turning around, and for whom are our eyes and hearts and spaces opening?—comes in the last verse of today’s reading: “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Not just some flesh. The ones we know. The ones who are easy to welcome into our waiting space and easy to walk beside. All flesh, John challenges us. The ones where the presence of Jesus appears as he challenges us in Matthew 25: the hungry and the imprisoned, the stranger and the forsaken. The ones who cannot always monetarily repay us for welcoming them into a space of love and inclusion and new possibilities.

Where do our spaces need to more welcoming? How do we wait with a bigger waiting room? What walls have we put up—consciously or unconsciously—so that we welcome and love only “some flesh” instead of “all flesh” as John challenges us today?

Janel Rice, pastor, Calvary Moravian Church
Allentown, Pennsylvania

 

*Henri Nouwen, “A Spiritual of Waiting,” in The Weavings Reader, ed. John Mogabgab, © 1993 The Upper Room.