“Love of the stranger.” 

This is the definition of biblical hospitality, and it conveys a sense of welcome and belonging. Oftentimes, Christ-followers view hospitality as welcoming others into their homes for meals or special gatherings. While this is an accurate, important, and beautiful display of hospitality, the birth of Jesus shows us an additional way that we can show hospitality throughout the Christmas season and beyond.

You might wonder how Jesus could love the stranger when He knows the very number of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). Is anyone truly a stranger to Jesus? The answer is no. However, when Jesus came into this world as a baby, mankind was not a stranger to Him. Still, Jesus was a stranger to mankind: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him” (John 1:10). When born, Jesus entered an unwelcoming (John 1:11) and hostile world (Matthew 2:3, 16-17), and yet His very birth was an act of hospitality. Jesus showed His love to the world (toward us!), self-proclaimed strangers of the Son of God, by leaving heaven and coming to earth. This love was first displayed simply by His being present. Immanuel. God with us, laying as a baby in a feeding trough. 

As Jesus launched his public ministry, He continued to show hospitality in this way. After all, Jesus did not own a house where He could invite others to enjoy a meal that He had prepared! Instead, Jesus practiced love through presence. He showed honor to Zaccheus by dining at Zaccheus’ house; He did the same with Matthew and the well-known siblings of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Beyond meals, Jesus showed love to other self-proclaimed strangers as He entered their pain and suffering. A perfect example is when Jesus willingly altered His agenda and went to the home of a desperate synagogue leader to heal the man’s daughter (Mark 5:22-43). Through acts of care and compassion like this, Christ constantly showed love to people who saw Him as a stranger. In short, Jesus was no stranger to the stranger, and He had an uncanny (even strategic?) way of hanging around unlikely people in unconventional situations.

Perhaps this Christmas season, we can follow our Lord’s example and show hospitality to our friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors, and kids (F.R.A.N.K.s) by showing up on their turf and being fully present while there. Whether delivering home-baked goods, attending a small gathering at a neighbor’s house, sitting with someone experiencing grief, or attending a holiday work party, we can choose to show up in unexpected places with the unassuming love of Christ. I know I will look for opportunities to do just that. Will you join me?

I pray that the love, joy, and peace of Christ flow through you this December into the hearts of your F.R.A.N.K.s – friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbors, and kids.

Merry Christmas!

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