And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place in the guest room. Luke 2:7
“and they shall name him Immanuel”, which means, “God is with us.” Matt 1:27
Is your Christmas tree up yet? Ours will be making its entrance this weekend, and as I write, I’m sitting next to the empty corner I’ve prepared for its arrival. Our family have lived in many places over the years, and while what passes for a Christmas tree has varied, some form of decoration that captures the anticipation of gathering to celebrate continues to be a meaningful rhythm for us. There’s just something about getting ready.
Perhaps you’re part of a church community where candles, readings, art or music are part of your tradition of advent reflection and preparation? The liturgical year can offer us a wonderful sense of being on a journey together with Jesus-followers all over the world as we’re reminded of the birth of Immanuel, God with us … We seek to make room in our hearts and our gatherings for the presence of Christ, as God extends to us divine hospitality in coming to dwell among us.
This year, I’ve been wondering about making room in mentoring – about practicing tangible hospitality with those we serve. While that might begin with a cup of tea, it doesn’t end there, nor is it something we come by accidently, but rather it’s a way of meeting the other before us that recognises their inherent dignity and value as a fellow human. One of the gifts of mentoring is in the offering of our undivided attention and wholehearted presence, an increasingly rare space to encounter amid the busyness and distraction of life. Parker J. Palmer writes, ‘hospitality means receiving each other, our struggles, our newborn ideas, with openness and care’1 – such a welcome grows not from sentimentality, but an earthy, grounded practice. Both the practice of and encounter with such honest, humble room-making can be transformative, it has the power to shape and form us. As we host hospitable environments where a mentoree can feel seen, heard, and met, we co-create with God the possibility that this generous and attentive relational space might extend beyond the session, to touch others in the mentoree’s world. This is truly kingdom work. However, while we hold hope for our mentoree’s flourishing, we do so with open hands as the hospitality we offer comes without ulterior motives or a need to direct outcomes. Henri Nouwen puts it this way,
“hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place… Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his (sic) own.”2
If you’d like to join me, here are some of the things I’m pondering in my mentoring practice in this season of advent, making room:
- How am I preparing myself before a mentoring session? How am I sensitive and responsive to the work of the Spirit? How do I consciously make room in my mind, in my heart, in my day, and how is that experienced by mentorees?
- How does the physical environment we are going to meet in communicate hospitality to this mentoree? Might I make helpful modifications for comfort, appropriate privacy, sufficient time, or refreshment for example?
- What might hospitality look like for this mentoree, with their goals and their journey? How might I host an open and generous space in the light of this particularity?
With a mentoree this week who was reflecting on what their year has held, we considered the ways that she had sensed the hospitality of God in 2023:
- Where are you noticing Christ has been present as Immanuel for you this year? In what ways is this similar to and different from previous years?
- How have we experienced God “with us” in our mentoring sessions this year? What is our awareness of the ‘withness’ of God in this moment, in this session?
- Looking ahead, how are you sensing the Spirit’s invitation to the company of God in 2024?
Her insights included a diverse collection of experiences and realisations, with elements that were personal and collective, predictable and surprising, simple and complex, clear and blurry, yet all somehow held in God’s love.
For all of us, mentors and mentorees, the practice of hospitality opens our hearts to our familiar neighbours and to strangers, and there we can find the company of Jesus in the midst of us. Wishing you moments of experiencing and extending hospitality this advent,
Many blessings, Em Seinemeier
1 Parker J. Palmer, To Know as We Are Known: A Spirituality of Education (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983), 73-74
2 Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out: A Special Edition of the Spiritual Classic Including Beyond the Mirror (London: Fount Publishing, 1998), 49.
All scripture used from NRSV Bible.