(Enjoy the fourth and final part in our series called Celebrating Advent.)
We anxiously wait for the powerful moment of hope’s arrival.
Our most revered and treasured tradition is our Christmas Eve feast. This family tradition pre-dates our marriage, when my wife and her mother would annually welcome in anyone without a family to be with and without a place to go. This meal was important to my late mother-in-law because it depicted generosity, family, and the entire message of the gospel. This meal is the most spiritual, religious, and discipling moment of our entire holiday season.
My wife, Mirela, prepares great food from appetizers to dessert. It begins with an assortment of nuts, cheeses, and meats and ends with marvelous dessert. We buy the best beer, the best wine, and the best whisky. We decorate our home, and we welcome in friend, stranger, and acquaintances. There’s hardly anything more appropriate in our worship. More than hymns, more than sermons, and even more than candles, we see God’s arrival to us at a table with other people.
Waiting for the Gospel Feast
The first biblical meal is the perversion, pollution, and de-creation of all God had made. Adam’s feast ushers the world into chaos. Through food humanity enters a groaning and waiting for wholeness, restoration, and peace. Sin—everything that is unkind, unmerciful, destructive, wicked, lonely, murderous, and mortal—has its birth in that first meal. Through Advent we weep over the consequences of Adam and Eve’s meal in which they doubted God’s goodness and believed God to be withholding. The hopelessness, war, doubt, and selfishness of our worlds are directly correlated to our participation in that meal. That meal made Advent necessary. God arrives to remove the separation caused by sin, to resurrect the death consumed, and to destroy the evil digested.
Advent is the season we observe the agony of war and hope for peace. We aspire to hope while we acknowledge our own despair. We long for love while confronting our inability to receive love from another or muster the courage to love another. The world watches for God’s light, peace, joy, salvation, and love to break into our world. We wait for the abundance, blessing, and eternal life of God that overpowers our sin and cleanses us. It was through a meal creation fell apart, and it’s through a meal that God is restoring all things, including us.
The Arrival of the Gospel Feast
You’ve likely never heard an Advent or Christmas sermon on Isaiah 25, but it is a deep song of arriving hope and peace to the world.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
Isaiah points us to a moment when the waiting will be over, when God will gather all people for a rich feast an incredible celebration. It’s in that gathering in the shared feast that we will see the swallowing up of death, the removal of mourning, the extinguishing of condemnation, and the tearing of the separation between God and humanity. This is the powerful moment of hope’s arrival. Symbolically and powerfully it happens over a feast. The moment is a communal meal. God gathers a diverse and multitude of people at the meal. We wait for the arrival of God to us. We celebrate His coming to us.
Sing hymns, read devotionals, pray prayers, and light candles this Advent season. All are good and right responses to what we have hoped for and what God has certainly accomplished. Do not neglect the table where all can come and be Jesus’ guest. Do not neglect a communal celebration that reflects the magnitude of God’s arrival. After all, as Tim Chester writes, “Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, create programs, or put on events. He ate meals.”
How will you see Christ at your table this season?
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