Yesterday a very small group of us were in the church building taking out the last remaining bits and pieces (mostly to the dump), swtiching off all non-essential power supplies, checking the alarms, and, where needed, changing or adding locks.
One of the very last things to be lifted down, from a long abandoned corner, was this 'welcome' sign. Alas it is damp and probably carries spores of mildew so we had to let it go, but the sentiments remain.
Welcome - or its absence - is a self-evident Advent theme. We have created a whole myth of inhospitable inn-keepers, and invented a stable, from a tiny detail in Luke's birth narrative. And in so-doing we have discovered, or expressed, an important truth about human nature, the suspicion of 'other', the challenge of 'one demand too many' and of course the Biblical/faith-based imperative to welcome the stranger.
I find myself pondering welcome in two directions/dimensions...
First, and probably more important, to whom can, should and will I extend a welcome?
Secondly, where, when and how do I recognise myself being welcomed by others... i.e. I am alert enough to recognise it when it happens?