Advent, Part 3: Welcoming

This week on the Allender Center Podcast, Dr. Dan Allender is joined by his wife, Becky Allender, to continue our series on Advent. In the first two episodes, Dan discussed the theme of anticipation with Dr. Angela Parker and preparation with Dr. Chelle Stearns. Today, Dan and Becky reflect on the act of welcoming, in particular what it means to have a heart that is prepared to welcome and receive the coming of Jesus. This is a fitting conversation to have with Becky, says Dan, since “I’m not sure I have known any human being who is better at welcoming.”

Becky shares memories of how much her parents loved to gather with friends and welcome others into their home. She also recalls the thrill of Christmas decorations and the pageantry of Christmas services. “Christmas was really the only time I saw my parents play, especially my mother,” says Becky.

Dan and Becky also engage the surprises that come with welcoming others, and the reality that welcoming is, in a sense, opening yourself to the unexpected. This reminds them of the shepherds who are hosts to the angelic proclamation in Luke and who responded in terror and fright.

Becky: “The unexpected is not often what we want, and I think that’s how God so often arrives in our lives: not at all the way we wanted it to be.”

Dan: “There’s something about being able to receive the guest knowing that you are about to enter an unexpected process. You can’t possibly know all that’s about to happen as you invite a stranger, or even a dear friend, into your home.”

You are about to enter an unexpected process.

There is also a sort of playfulness that comes in welcoming the unexpected, which Becky often delights in by hiding to surprise Dan as he comes home. “I think the joy that comes with being terrified is somewhat like the joy of the shepherds, and probably like the surprise of Mary, even,” she says. This type of surprising, playful welcoming goes beyond the often mundane tasks of hosting.

Becky: “To even invite a guest into the unexpected gift or the unexpected memory that brought you all together, to clear space so the holiness of the friendship or the love that the guest represents as they enter your home—it takes a preparation of the heart, which is very much what we need to do for Advent.”

Dan: “I think that’s, for me at least, the great challenge of how we welcome Jesus. We do so by surprising, blessing, and gifting those who we are called to love.”

Next week, in the conclusion of our Advent series, Dan and Becky will ponder together what it means to mark the birth of Christ with deep, profound celebration. And it’s not too late to join us for the last entries in our weekly Advent reflection series that continues until Christmas Day, a way for all of us at The Allender Center and The Seattle School to wish you, your families, and your communities a meaningful and restorative season of Advent.