Master the art of cooking and guests remember the meal. Master the art of interior design and guests remember your home. Master the art of hospitality and all remember God.
Like other gifts of service, hospitality is a gift of sacrifice. It may mean leaving your comfort zone by asking people to dinner, finding time to plan an event and learning something new about cooking or setting a proper table.
Hosts make physical sacrifices. They put others first. They may clean the house, stay up late to press tablecloths, cut and arrange fresh flowers or get up early to put the turkey in the oven.
Hospitality costs may require a financial sacrifice. You may need to cut down expenses by eating beans and rice for a month or forgoing a manicure or a new dress. Read the O. Henry story, “The Gift of the Magi.” It offers a vivid example of loving sacrifice. The bride sold her beautiful hair and the groom sold his gold watch, so each could buy the other Christmas gifts. Giving is in the heart of the host, the art of hospitality.
The physical things used to provide hospitality—the table settings, the foods, the space—are far less important than the attitude and motive of the giver. This is especially important to remember during the holidays when time, energy and money may be short.
For some people, the first inclination is to be economical with resources. Flowers are too expensive. Good dishes take too much time to wash. Homemade food is too hard to make. Or they go to the other extreme and exhaust the body and bank account.
But wisdom guides godly hosting decisions. Whether you have china or paper plates, fresh flowers or backyard evergreens, a golden turkey or canned turkey soup, the unspoken message of the godly host is, “I care for you so I want to make this day special by giving you my best.” Don’t focus on worldly cost, little or much. When you ask God for provision, hosting can be done on any budget by the busiest person. Wisdom and understanding is in the heart of the host, the art of hospitality.
Be prepared to show grace to difficult people. Family and friends may discourage a sit-down meal because the big game is on or they want to go shopping. We’re called to show hospitality and love to everyone. British Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Donald Coggan, known for his grace toward guests once said, “The art of hospitality is to make guests feel at home when you wish they were.” Humility is in the heart of the host, the art of hospitality.
So why bother? Gathering at a table provides sustenance for the body and the soul. It bonds families and friends, offers teachable moments to children and showcases gentleness and civility. And it allows us to use our resources and talents to honor the most important guest of all: our God.
4 Tips for Hosting a Big Event
Busy modern life often crushes the spirit and ability to act as host. Here are a few ideas to help encourage you to hold special events for your family, friends and strangers.
1 Prepare in advance. The key to being a gracious host is planning and execution. Clean your house early so you’re not tired from this chore while hosting. Hire a cleaning service, if you can afford it, or get help from your kids, spouse, other family member or friend. (Tip: During cleanup, use a laundry basket to carry cleaning supplies from room-to-room and to collect last-minute items. Stash basket in front closet with paper towels and spray cleaner in case of spills later.) Plan a doable menu, including convenience foods and bakery items. Set table and make some foods the night before. If possible, hand off cooking tasks to another person. The turkey, opposite, was prepared on an outdoor smoker, taking pressure off the kitchen.
2 Invest in basics. The right tools make special event hosting easier. Buy or borrow some needed items. If you host frequently, you may want to have these items on hand:
Vases or containers
3 Get up early. Pray and groom early in the day. Set out your good clothing but wear casual clothes while you finish the meal and setting. An hour before dinner, freshen up and swap your clothes. Do a final check on the meal and the house after dressing.
4 Edify God & others. If hosting is something you’re called to do, rely on God for strength and direction. Hosting can make a great impact on others, but like all ministry opportunities, it can be physically, financially and creatively draining if you go it alone. Spend time preparing spiritually by reading God’s Word, fasting and praying. The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV.
How you treat guests—even family members you know well—is most important. Welcome them to your home and table, serve them first and be interested in what they have to say. Guide the conversation to uplifting subjects that encourage good relations. Don’t be distracted by the trends of this modern world, such as Black Friday shopping, texting or talking on a cell phone, or other diversions that will spoil this special time of fellowship.