❝The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.❞ Leviticus 19:34
Reflection by Jay Lacy
Can you imagine how Mary and Joseph must have felt having to pack up all of their belongings including the kitchen sink and move to an unknown land? The thought of the unknown could sometimes be unimaginable.
Don’t get me wrong. I could not compare myself to Mary, the mother of Jesus. However, I can relate in some small way to the experience of gathering all of my belongings and traveling to the “unknown.” Who knew that answering a phone call from Tifton, Georgia meant the answer to the next phase of our lives?
As we drove up to our new home with Mary Grace in her car seat holding on to an empty package of goldfish in one hand and a juice box in another, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of questioning myself, “Did we do the right thing? Did we make the right decision?” I either had butterflies in my stomach or Kendall had the hiccups (I was five months pregnant). Stepping out of the car, the anxiety melted away and the excitement began to build. Yes, this is exactly where we need to be at the exactly the right time.
First, we were greeted by Papa Roy Rankin at our front door. He took Mary Grace from my arms, of course, and welcomed us inside our new home. Roy cannot resist a baby! Right away, we noticed that so much labor and sweat and love had been poured into this beautiful house. All that was left on the “to-do” list was to welcome the new priest and his family . . . home. Home. We felt right at home as if we had already settled in and had been living there for years. Our beloved Ann Clayton had chosen the type of carpet to install and picked out a new color of paint for the walls. Bucky Ferguson was putting on finishing touches here and there. I also remember not shaking anyone’s hand when we arrived. I hugged them. I hugged them as if I had known them all of my life. They were immediately family.
Parishioners began stopping by for the next several days bringing food and gifts: the delicious fruit pizza made with love by Marilynn Marshall, the dinner from Hawk-Eye Barbeque brought by Syd Blackmarr, who knew what a pregnant woman was craving that night! So many others greeted us with their own unique expressions of love and gratitude. They may not have realized in the moment that they were not only welcoming us to their church and community, but were setting an example of hospitality.
St. Anne’s has always been a place of welcome and hospitality. With Southern charm and love we are willing to share our many blessings, always expressing gratitude. I have learned here how to show that same love and appreciation by paying it forward to others both at our church and throughout the community. I am proud to call Tifton my home and St. Anne’s my church family.
A new phase of life could not have been more different for Mary and Joseph. No one in Bethlehem knew to expect them. Not one soul had prepared for their arrival. The innkeeper did not send them a home cooked meal or warm blankets; yet they followed God’s plan and held onto their faith. Mary and Joseph were welcomed by cows and donkeys in a manger, and then trusting the warmth of hay, they welcomed the Son of God. Shepherds and foreign kings then stopped by–without fruit pizza or barbeque or fresh paint–over the next several days, and were welcomed into this humble and makeshift new home to express their love and gratitude.
And now, over 2000 years later, that gift of love and welcome continues to be paid forward, and shared with all of God’s children.