Did you ever meet someone who seemed to be the "hostess with the mostest"? The moment you entered her house and smelled homemade apple pie baking you knew it would be a night to remember. She served a complete five-course dinner, including the appetizer. Her house seemed to sparkle; not a single object was out of place. Had she cleaned for days? The many Christmas presents under the tree made you wonder if your hostess had been working around the clock since Labor Day to prepare for the holiday season. How does she do it? you muse.
Your first clue should have been the fact that the house smelled of apple pie, yet the dessert you ate was chocolate mousse. Your wise hostess merely chose a candle that would whet your appetite for the evening. Dinner was great, but it doesn't take a culinary artist to bake seasoned chicken breasts, served beside crescent rolls, garlic mashed potatoes, corn, and a tossed salad. Could it be the appetizer you ate was from the neighborhood deli? It isn't polite to snoop, but if you had, you might have noticed her overstuffed coat closet held her three children's school backpacks, two throw pillows stained with Kool-Aid, and her husband's collection of sports magazines. Good thing you didn't shake or examine the Christmas gifts, which were uniformly wrapped with paper coordinating with her Christmas tree ornaments, or you would have found them to be empty boxes wrapped and displayed beneath the tree as a festive touch.
I have a friend, Jan, who met with another friend for breakfast one morning. As Jan and Lainey chatted over coffee about the approaching holiday season, Lainey talked about how fun it would be if she and Jan arranged an evening get-together with some of their friends from church. Jan knew that with plenty of advance notice she could use the church facilities for the celebration. Lainey paused in the middle of their planning and candidly said, "Jan, the best place I can think of to spend an evening with friends is your house. Your home is a place of such warmth and peace." Little did Lainey know, Jan had prayed for her home to be a place of ministry and refreshment.
Anyone can be a successful hostess and develop a ministry of hospitality. It does take some planning, but it isn't rocket science. So why do so few of us entertain guests in our home? It seems to be a lost art. The fact is if we think something is simple we are much more likely to try it, and given a measure of success, we may repeat the experience.
To entertain guests with little fuss consider these suggestions for meal planning:
- For the main course try frozen veal or chicken cutlets. Add a zippy premixed sauce for a finishing touch.
- Choose brightly colored vegetables from the frozen section of your grocery, such as carrots or a mixed vegetable medley.
- A tossed salad is easier than ever to create. Try the prepackaged salad. Merely place the greens in a bowl and add cherry or grape tomatoes.
- Hot bread is a complement to any meal. Check the frozen food section for preshaped rolls in a bag. Just thaw. Allow 4 to 6 hours for bread to rise. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.
- So many boxed dessert mixes are available to make the final course a no-brainer. Or try a frozen fruit pie served a la mode.
If you want a really stress-free evening and your budget will allow, invite your guests to your favorite restaurant for dinner and serve dessert and coffee at your house afterward.
I like to clean the house the day before entertaining guests. Cleaning in advance and planning a simple menu places the emphasis where it belongs, on my guests. I really prefer to clean once and entertain twice. By that I mean, I often clean on Thursday, have guests on Friday and again on Saturday or Sunday for lunch. Once the cleaning is done and I've finished the shopping for my simple menu plan, entertaining is a joy.
What about entertainment? Usually guests don't expect a song and dance from their host. Simple conversation can create lasting bonds.
Hospitality is a great ministry. Romans 15:7 says, "Welcome and receive [to your hearts] one another, then, even as Christ has welcomed and received you, for the glory of God" (Amplified Bible). Inviting guests into our home is an opportunity to show the love of Christ and bring Him glory. It provides a chance to deposit cheer and goodwill into the life of another, no matter what the season.