One of my favorite traditions during the holiday season is to place candles in the windows of my home. Historians record the origin of this tradition in various ways from signaling Irish priests that parishioners desire sacraments to informing weary colonial travelers of a place for rest. Whatever the origins, the common theme among all the tales is hospitality. And this is something we can all celebrate. Whether we are Christians walking through advent, Jews remembering God’s provision with Hanukkah, or Neopagans celebrating Yule, most of the world’s organized religions and spiritual practitioners see this season as sacred. It is a time for family, friends, and even strangers to come together.
In my own tradition, as we move toward the birth of Jesus, we retell the story of Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem only to find the guest rooms full. Different storytellers have different tales, but essentially, Christ is then born into a humble space at the bottom of most social measurements. Oh, what a change we see by the end of the gospel though! We learn that in God’s economy there is plenty of room (John 14:2) and all are welcome (Luke 23:43). This is no surprise; after all, Jesus’ own tradition taught him that God is a God of hospitality. For example, Leviticus 19:34 teaches that the foreigner among us shall be as the citizen. Thus, from the beginning, God asks us to light a candle for the stranger.
I know we have been through a lot; our world aches with sorrows and pain aplenty. My prayer is that in this season we find the space to welcome weary travelers. I don’t know who your candle is for. Perhaps it’s for a widow who’s alone for the first time. Maybe it’s for the brother you haven’t spoken to in a while. It could be for someone who celebrates a different tradition than you during this season.
Or maybe you are the ragged, broken traveler. If that is you, may you find a candle in our windows. May you find our door unlocked and an open room. Blessing upon you this holiday season. Grace and peace to you and yours!