May I offer an alternative? Instead of entertaining, offer hospitality. The differences are not subtle. When we entertain, we are often ruled by our pride. When we offer hospitality, we are inspired by charity. Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to minister.
In her excellent book, Open Heart, Open Home, Karen Mains
Secular entertaining is a terrible bondage. Its source is human pride. Demanding perfection, fostering the urge to impress, it is a rigorous taskmaster that enslaves. In contrast, scriptural hospitality is a freedom that liberates.
Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking.” Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, “This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am his servant, and I use it as he desires.” Hospitality does not try to impress but to serve…Entertaining always puts things before people…Hospitality, however, puts people before things.
Entertaining often has a reward attached to it: social stature, a new job or a promotion, an accolade, a return invitation. Hospitality is freely-given, with no thought to reciprocity or reward. The heart that is ordered towards charity offers hospitality to those who most need it, even if those are not the people whose company we most desire. This is charity—a virtue we can model for our children when we ensure that they are hospitable to their friends and even to the child who might otherwise be excluded.
As we begin to practice the ministry of hospitality, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We open our doors and our hearts and certainly some people will come through those doors who don’t view our efforts through the same lens of charity. On occasion we will hear a critical comment; we will be judged according to the world’s standards. We will feel as if we’ve come up short. But we haven’t truly. Those are the times the hospitable hostess will offer to Christ, imperfect and heartfelt, knowing that He will redeem the time and the effort.
This holiday season, make hospitality your prayer. Seek to comfort and to minister. Look for ways to lighten someone else’s load. In every guest, no matter how cranky, no matter how demanding, see Christ. Open your heart wide; risk allowing people to see your weaknesses. For it is in that very weakness that his power is made perfect.