Tuesday,  December 1, 2020

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…  And everyone went to their own town to register.

Luke 2:1&3
“The Census at Bethlehem” by Pieter Bruegel  image from artsandculture.google.com

What a cold, dark, uninviting place is in this picture.  I would have no desire to visit or be compelled to go to such a dreadful “home.”

Each year, many churches in the South celebrate memories of the past through a tradition known as “Homecoming.”  Those people who have migrated from their birthplaces return to participate in the church’s annual Homecoming services— a census of sorts.

I remember my grandparents’ little country church with the hymnals and funeral home fans in the pews that were overflowing with visitors returning home. The homecoming celebration included a service, a memorial, and singing later in the day, but what I remember most is the food.  Everyone brought a huge Sunday dinner; the dishes included some of the best fried chicken and desserts I have ever eaten.  And did I ever feel welcomed!  It did not take long for everyone in that congregation to know who the visitors were and their connections to the church family there.

What a contrast to Mary and Joseph, whose return home for their census was no homecoming. They were stuck in the most forbidding surroundings with people who were in no way

welcoming.  I cannot imagine anyone greeting them kindly or even caring who they were. 

We may never know who the visitors we encounter are, or the effect we may have on their lives.   May God’s love and grace inspire us to be welcoming to all.

Colby Benton