‘So go into the main streets and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ And those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Every year at Thanksgiving, it’s customary (and right) to reflect on what we’re thankful for.
I am thankful for Monica Grider.
If it weren’t for Monica, I might not know any of my neighbors.
We had lived in our neighborhood for less than a year when one sunny Sunday afternoon we heard a knock at our door. At least, my husband did. I was vacuuming.
Mike called me to our entryway, and there, in the door, stood Monica.
At the time I had been working at a different radio station. Just a few days earlier, the show’s hosts had been having some fun at my expense.
I had told them off the air how lonely I was. I had lived in Flower Mound for five years and still didn’t have any close girlfriends.
It’s not that I didn’t want to meet people. My schedule just made it tough. I couldn’t do any of my church’s Bible studies or other activities because I was at work during the daytime studies and getting ready for bed during the evening studies. The girlfriends I did have lived in other cities (the DFW metroplex is massive), and because they worked during the day, I spent most of my time with my two babies.
As I shared this with my co-workers, one of them asked me why I hadn’t made an effort to make friends.
“I have,” I exclaimed, and proceeded to tell them how I would walk my kids to the park in the stroller and try to insert myself into other moms’ conversations. Pathetic, I know. And highly ineffective.
At this, they howled with laughter and then told hundreds of thousands of our closest friends the next time we turned on the microphones.
Monica Grider was listening and, through mutual acquaintances, knew I lived around the corner.
Monica is also one of the kindest, most sincere, gracious, and inclusive people you will ever meet.
I suppose that’s why she invited us to the birthday party.
Not her birthday party. Karra’s daughter Kaitlyn’s fifth birthday party.
Did you catch that?
Monica invited me and my family to the party of one of the neighbor’s daughters.
Without telling them.
It gets better.
At four o’clock sharp, because my husband doesn’t understand fashionably late, we knocked on Karra’s door. Karra opened the door and inside we saw a roomful of people.
Monica was not one of them.
Horrified, I bumbled my way through an introduction that must’ve gone something like this:
Um, hey! (Nervous laughter) Um, you don’t know me, but someone named, um, Monica, I think? Honey, was her name Monica? (More nervous laughter) Um, yea, Monica. Well, um, she came and introduced herself to us and invited us to a birthday party. Are we at the right house?
Surprised and amused, Karra let us in. Mike and I, longing to cut and run, sheepishly walked inside while I silently prayed for the floor to open up and swallow us.
Ten minutes later, Monica showed up and proceeded to introduce us to everyone at the party, and what started out as horribly awkward ended up to be the start of many friendships that have deepened over the years.
With advent upon us, I’ve been reflecting on the season and what it means.
Not what advertisers and retailers would have us think it means, but what it truly means.
You and I are getting ready to celebrate a birthday—the birth of Christ. Of the 320 million people living in the United States, nearly all of them, regardless of religious affiliation, celebrate on Christmas Day. How many of them are the awkward guests at the party? They show up, but they’re not sure why. They’re looking for something, but they’re not sure what.
They need a Monica.
They need more than an invitation, they need someone to barge into their lives, grab them by the heart, and offer an introduction. They need to see that Christmas is more than a holiday; it’s a holy day. It’s a day where we gather, not to get presents, but to give thanks to the One who gave us His Son so that one day we can rejoice in eternity with Him. We rest our hope on the cross and our gaze on a star that points to the One who was, and is, and is to come.
And we look forward to the Glorious Day of His return.
How strange, how hollow, how empty it must feel to celebrate a birthday when you don’t know the One whom you celebrate; when you throw away the wrappings, turn off the tree lights, and put away the gifts. Where do you place your hope on December 26th?
How rewarding, how fulfilling, how soul-satiating it is to know Jesus intimately; to believe that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1).” How reassuring to know that the One we celebrate celebrates us, too, and looks forward with longing to the day when He’ll gather us together and present us to the Father for the feast to end all feasts.
Is the Lord bringing someone to your mind? Call them. Do you know someone who doesn’t know the Lord? Invite them – to church, to your table, to whatever. My prayer—for you, for me, for the Church—is that there would be no awkward guests this Christmas season, and that no one in our circles of influence would be standing around without an introduction.
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