Not Just at Christmas
Out of the passage in Matthew 25:34-40) comes the words of Jesus,“I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” * (ESV)
I had the privilege of sharing over the last month in New Zealand and Melbourne on the theme, ‘There are Ghosts all around us’. I was not talking about Charles Dickens classic ‘A Christmas Carol’. And for the movie buffs I am not talking about the Bruce Willis movie, The Six Sense with the statement “I see dead people.”
I am talking about the invisible people; the people that feel that they are unnoticed and not understood. They are the ghosts in the crowd, the invisibles. I have had people tell that they feel invisible, unnoticed and not understood. Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D said that,“if we do not or can’t, experience others as understanding us — who we are and what we’re about — then all of these other wants can end up feeling relatively meaningless.” 
It is as the song Mr. Cellophane from the musical Chicago states.
If someone stood up in a crowd
And raised their voice up way out loud
And waved their arm and shook his leg
You’d notice him
If someone in the movie show
Yelled, “Fire”, in the second row
This whole place is a powder keg
You’d notice him
And even without clucking like a hen
Everyone gets noticed, now and then
Unless of course, that personage should be
Invisible, inconsequential me
Cellophane, Mr. Cellophane shoulda been my name
Mr. Cellophane ’cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me and never know I’m there.
By John C. Reilly 2001
To feel you are not noticed, to feel you don’t belong, to feel you are not understood is to feel invisible. There are ghosts all around us. They are in our churches, and in our communities. The invisibles at times can be those of our own culture who just can’t seem to fit in. They can be those that are outside the dominate culture and for both groups it is like living in the shadows. The words of Jesus, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” * (ESV) confront me and calls me to go to them. A concerning danger that we face today is that we have a consumer concept of church. The idea that it’s about me and what I can get out of it. Meanwhile there are ghosts in our midst that are crying out to be heard and to be understood to the point where they do not feel they are valued, and they lack a deep sense of belonging. Maybe we all feel like this at times.
To see this change requires of us all an adherence to passages like, Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV) “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
The question for us is how we can do this; how can we live out this biblical mandate? It can be as simple as first looking around and noticing the invisibles and then going out of our way, moving out from a place of comfort to welcome the strangers in our churches and in our communities. It may require a step of faith to go to those in the shadows and a faith that responds to the interests of others.
When the baby Jesus was lying in a feeding troth in a barn, some might have said that’s ok; that he was an unimportant child. If only they had known who he was. We have the opportunity of welcoming the ones that may appear unimportant! And not just at Christmas.
Some other verses to note. Deuteronomy 10:19, Leviticus 19:34 and Hebrews 13:1.
- Who are the strangers?
- How can I welcome them?
- How can we live out Philippians 2:3-4?
Rev Rex E Rigby