Advent begins on Sunday – the time of intentional waiting to welcome the guest of God, who is the Christ-child. We need this time of the colour purple to get our guest house seriously ready, to prepare well, to recognise the guest that we will be accommodating. How can we welcome him, this guest of God? The Church’s customs, rituals and traditions give us a helpful lead in this respect. The liturgical season of Advent looks back over salvation history, not only through the lens of the New Testament but further back in time. On the First Sunday of Advent we look to the lives of the frontrunners of faith – Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob…. these patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith were far from perfect human beings but they all demonstrated a knowledge of the Invisible God. We light a candle to remember how the bore witness to God in their age.
As guest house keepers, we are asked to walk in the path of those pioneers of faith. We are called to get ready for the arrival of God in God’s most vulnerable state as well as the Holy Family and friends. We need to prepare the house for our guests, we need to welcome them, listen to their story, feed them, give them rest. The house becomes more like a hospital than a hotel, or, perhaps, a hostel. The Church stands as a place of hospitality not only to God incarnate but naturally to all people who require shelter, friendship and meaning. Despite the global pandemic, this is the task of all churches this Advent – to become guest houses – and for you and me to become guest house keepers!