Christmas is only a couple days away. I’m concluding my Advent meditation series of reflections on a recent Border Summit by pondering a powerful concluding presentation by a friend and colleague, the Rev. Paul Moore, whom I’ve mentioned before. He addressed the question which often concludes a summit of this type: Where do we go from here?
Paul’s answer is to imitate the Paraclete. The Paraclete is the Greek word for the Holy Spirit. The word in Greek has many connotations. We commonly think of advocate and helper, and it can also mean someone who accompanies another (as I do in my spiritual guidance ministry). All of these ideas are perfect invitations to go from here—from sharing ideas and plans in a summit—into a world that needs people to accompany them, advocate for them, and help them.
In his presentation, Paul took us through the history of the church and shared many ways in which Christians have been called to accompany and support others. One that stuck in my head and heart is commanded of monks in one of the earliest monastic directives, the Rule of St. Benedict. Chapter 53 addresses the reception of guests and begins, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.”
What if we accepted everyone—who arrives at any door we open, or any border we encounter—as Christ? Whether they are a stranger or familiar friend or challenging family member, what if we honored them as Christ? What if we gave them the very best we had to offer, hung on their every word, loved them the very best way we can? Rather than turning them away on cold winter days, what if we listened to their stories, heard their pain, brought them into Christ’s healing light through our prayers, and accompanied them on their journey?
Paul Moore is a strong believer in the power of stories. He believes we will realize our oneness and common humanity when we share stories with people who show up on our borders. We are about to revisit one of the most powerful of Christian stories: the Nativity. That story has become a life-changing story for so many people over the centuries.
What life-changing stories do you have to share? What guests do you need to welcome, accompany, and advocate for in this season?