Christmas for me has always been bright, busy, loud, stressful, presents galore (especially now that there are nieces and nephews), lots of food and fun. Quiet has never been a word that would characterize Christmas and all of its surrounding festivities, after all, as I love to sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” And He has indeed.
But last year in the midst of all the busyness, and again this year as Claire and I begin to think about what we want Christmas to look like for our family, I long for a little more simplicity and quietness – time to simply dote on the baby Jesus. This desire for quietness and simplicity has me thinking about what feasting might look like.
Christmas feasting, much like that of Thanksgiving, is predicated on an overabundance of eating and food. Therefore, it is all too easy for me to associate feasting with a feeling of stuffed, as I mentioned in a previous post.
Before Jesus the Messiah came, there were centuries of hopes, expectations, and anticipation of whom the Messiah was going to be and what he would do. For example, the prophet Isaiah writes:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
The Messiah would come and bring peace on earth, rescuing the nation of Israel from its oppressors and ushering in a day when God’s shalom would reign in place of sin and injustice. And with this hope came the idea of the Messianic feast. Even Jesus’ disciples thought this was the case right up until the day Jesus ascended back into heaven following his death and resurrection (see Acts 1:6).
As a Christian I believe that Jesus will come again to reign as king as he already reigns in heaven. There is coming a day when the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Advent is not just about looking back at Jesus’ first coming, but building within us the anticipation, excitement, and longing of Jesus’ return, where we will enjoy the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Advent stresses the tension we as Christians live in – the already-not-yet. The Kingdom of God has been inaugurated by Jesus. I am living in the Kingdom. But it is not fully here on earth because the world, including myself, is not fully redeemed.
My temptation/struggle is to forget about the “not-yet” portion and simply live blindly in the already. For me, this can at times manifest itself in grandiosity, thinking too highly of myself. “There is something bigger and better for me than what I am currently experiencing. The mundane is just too boring. I am too qualified to heat up canned marinara for fifth graders.” And so on.
So it is with food. To feast I must have the finest ingredients, the finest wine, the finest China. Everything must be just perfect. There is a place for that feast to remind me and others of the hope that awaits us at Christ’s return.
But I must also learn what it means to feast on the simple, the unadorned, the messy. After all, Jesus came not in a palace, but in a manger, surrounded by dirty, stinking animals, worshiped by shepherds.
As Oswald Chambers wrote, “Beware of posing as a profound person. God became a baby.”