Come see us anytime!”
You MEAN it, sort of, but you also expect that whoever you say it to will know how to play the game well enough to not take you up on it.
I had mentioned at a Huntsville Association for Pastoral Care (HAPC) meeting that I would have room at the table for extra folks, so I said, “If you know anybody who doesn’t have an invitation for Thanksgiving, have them give me a call.” And my friend, Frank, being a person of goodwill and a good heart, took me at my word.
And so we ended up with an uninvited guest — not Frank himself, but a friend of Frank’s — for Thanksgiving. I tried to reach Frank to find out what he knew about this fellow, but I couldn’t reach him. The uninvited guest got mixed reviews.
The same thing happened with Jesus when He came, too.
The prophet Isaiah spoke for his people during Israel’s long wait for the Messiah. Isaiah is talking about the restoration of Zion, when the Messiah would “judge between the nations, and decide for many peoples; and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).
This was their announcement: “We have a place at our table for a messiah! If you know of a messiah who’s looking for a people or a nation to restore to greatness, just tell him to drop by! We’ll be happy to have him!”
They didn’t know it when they were praying and wishing and hoping and looking for Him, but long before He was born in Bethlehem, and centuries before we started celebrating His birth on December 25th, this kid Jesus was going to be a handful.
The advent and birth of Jesus was so unexpected and so scandalous that Joseph was ready to divorce Mary, the mother of Jesus. He was going to do it quietly and decently and in order, but that’s the only way he knew how to deal with an Uninvited Guest in the womb of his wife-to-be.
But that hurdle was jumped, and the Messiah did come. He came not because of anything normal, anything natural, or anything that anybody expected. All around Him, the unexpected kept happening. Shepherds left their flocks in the field. Wise men left the courts of their kings and carried gifts over the trackless desert wastes. A whole community of faith and joy came together around an infant.
Not the Messiah They Were Looking For
The calendar cannot work miracles. An Uninvited Guest is just as big a threat on Thanksgiving day as on any other day of the year. You will not be spared doubt and anxiety over a stranger in your house simply because there is a turkey centerpiece on your dining table and pumpkin pie in the oven.
But we are not the first to go through all of this. The prophets of old knew that one little babe in swaddling clothes would not undo generations of neglect and abuse of God’s laws, God’s will and God’s love.
Though they had asked for Him and invited Him into their households, Jesus didn’t say what they expected or behave as they expected; and He certainly didn’t teach what they expected. Jesus was not a king, nor wealthy, nor a great general. Somehow or another, even though Israel had begged God for a messiah, this Jesus of Nazareth was an Uninvited Guest.
And then, to top it all off, HE DIED! HE WASN’T SUPPOSED TO DO THAT! HE WAS SUPPOSED TO RESTORE ZION, AND LIONS WERE SUPPOSED TO BECOME VEGETARIANS, AND WE WERE ALL SUPPOSED TO BEAT OUR SWORDS INTO PINKING SHEARS OR SOMETHING!
This was NOT what they had been wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ for all those years. From where Israel stood, it looked like the only thing that got beaten was Jesus.
From Uninvited to Honored
The people who had followed Jesus and believed in Him must have felt the way we do when all the gifts have been opened, the wrapping paper has been strewn all over the living room, and the only thing left to look forward to is cleaning the whole mess up and getting the decorations down before New Year so you won’t have bad luck.
Jesus’ new kingdom, with Him — the Messiah — at the helm, is not a kingdom of soil and soldiers and politicians, but a kingdom and a family of believing souls. It’s a kingdom of millions of uninvited guests who have found a place at the table, welcomed to dinner by the self-sacrificing Messiah Himself — the Original Uninvited Guest.
So maybe He didn’t do everything the easy way or the way we would have thought a King would have done it. Maybe the Uninvited Guest made Thanksgiving dinner more awkward than we all wanted it to be. But when we see Jesus for who He is — Lord and Savior — we will be spared far more than the worry of a stranger in our midst. We will be spared the uncertainty, the doubt, the misery and the burden of our sin.
In this glorious season of Advent, by God’s grace, The Uninvited Guest becomes the Guest of Honor.