When I was in second grade a friend of mine from school, Tommy, was having a birthday party, but I didn’t find that out till after it happened. I didn’t find out because I wasn’t invited. The fact that I can tell you about that event from so long ago tells you the effect it had on me. I was not invited, not cool enough, not a friend enough, not whatever enough to be at the party. I struggled to go to school after that and talk to Tommy, because apparently we were not friends, why else would he have left me off of his invite list.
There is something powerful about an invitation. I laugh thinking that I can remember not being invited to party years ago, but it shows the importance of invitation. An invitation means you were thought of, you are accepted, you are welcome, your presence is desired, and that you belong.
When we read the Christmas story we hear some of the people who were left off of most people’s invitation list; magi and shepherds. Shepherds were loners, at the bottom of the social ladder, and not just left off the invite lists, but just plain forgotten most of the time. The magi were not invited into faith because they were cultural “outsiders,” or heathen. These were just some of the people in Jesus’ day who were left off of invite lists for parties and gatherings. So when Jesus arrives God sends out invitations for people to come and see his son. So who does God invite? Most would think the very best people, religious leaders, kings and rulers, and the powerful just to name a few. But God has something else in mind; he invites the very people who everyone else does not invite, the lost, the least, the forgotten, and the outsiders. He invites them all because as Jesus would later say, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Matthew 9:11-12, TNIV) Jesus drive and purpose for his ministry was to come for those who had not been invited. His ministry was meant to reach those who did not know God, and those who had been hurt and pushed away by the church.
In this Christmas season, and as we move towards 2011, take a moment to think about the power of invitation in your life. Maybe you can think of someone it would mean the world to if you invited them to come with you to church. It might mean that you befriend a co-worker who few others do. And perhaps God’s invitation is for you. Maybe you feel like you have been hurt or left out by the church. God came not just for the select few; God came for all, that we might know His son, and that our lives might be transformed. Perhaps this invitation is time for a first step, back to family, back to church, or back to God. The invitation from God is there, but will you come? And will you share it with others?