Texas is a long way from Wyoming, and I could feel every mile. As a freshman without a car, I walked to church one Sunday night –me and my homesick heart.
In one quiet neighborhood of older homes, I started past a house that had the front door open. Through the screen door, I could hear laughing and talking. It sounded like a family Saturday night at my Grandma’s house. Then the smell of fried chicken came through the screen and all the way to the street. I stopped and turned to face that house full on.
Oh my heart.
Inside those walls was a happy family getting ready to feast on comfort food, and I was standing alone on the street. Do you know how long I stood there? Ridiculously long. Do you know how close I came, how very close, to walking up to that screen, knocking, and asking if I could please come in? Ridiculously close. Squeezes my heart even now to think of how desperate I was to be pulled into that family love.
A week ago I pulled Styrofoam out of boxes and carefully removed a camel and a goat. Two dark sheep. Two white sheep –one standing and one lying down. A shepherd with his staff. One Mary with babe. One Joseph. As I gently arranged these, the verse I had been memorizing, to teach the kids at church, came to mind. When I had the last nativity figure in place, I turned to Matt and quoted the verse.
When the Gentiles heard this they were glad and honored the word of the Lord… (Acts 13:48a NIV)
When the Jews in Pisidian Antioch heard the good news of the Savior from Paul, they were jealous of all the Gentiles in town who had packed into their little synagogue to hear the message. They spoke abusively against what Paul was saying, so Paul turned to the Gentiles and told them the light of Christ would now come to then.
The screen door was flung open and a welcoming hand was hollering, “Come on in! Join us for dinner!”
Always before, the Gentiles had been on the outside looking into the Jewish story, but now there was this gift of invitation, like fried chicken for homesick hearts.
Of course, this was the first time I had set up a nativity scene since traveling to Israel. In Israel I had joined a congregation of Messianic Jews one Sabbath for worship, and it was the first time ever that I was so pointedly the Gentile in the room.
So I set up Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, and it struck me in a new way that this was all Jewish. Jewish mom, Jewish dad, Jewish babe, Jewish shepherds. Why in the world should a Gentile woman in Montana be setting up this little Jewish scene?
Because I have been included into God’s very special story. I have been invited to be a part of a family –to be part of the laughing and joy and feasting on all that is good.
My heart is glad, and I honor the word of the Lord that speaks to me of the Messiah in the manger.
The screen door is open for you as well. Can you feel the great welcome?