The room is dark, the hay is cold, and the pain is real, but there are candles illuminating the stable filled with friendly faces.
I often wonder what the meal following the birth of Jesus looked like. Did the shepherds go into the marketplace and bring back some lamb to roast, with a side of flatbread? Was it a recipe they remembered their own mothers preparing? Were they telling their life stories while seated around a fire as Joseph kept watch and Mary nursed Jesus, collectively hoping for a better future?
I have noticed a spiritual scarcity among the noise of our generation. I am weary of the heartbreak, the outrage, and the war cries. I find myself at a loss for how to mobilize my faith in a time when there is so much work to be done. I want to be informed and engaged, but I honestly think our instant access to everything in the world can distract us from the people, experiences, and community that need us most: those around our table.
In taking up the causes of the world, we cannot abandon the causes that have already been given to us. I think this is what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Yes, we are to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, but our mission starts with the person actually next to us.
Most of us live a life that many would give anything to access. We were born into privilege, yet we have not done much with it. Who are we reaching out to in our immediate circle or outlying community? Who knows our names or what our dinner table looks like? Who can reminisce about that time we shared a delicious meal and a meaningful conversation? Who can recall the gathering around the table that created connection and brought life and laughter to everyone?
Gathering around the table is a proclamation of faith, a practice of generosity, and a way of honoring.
It is an invitation to slow down and feel our humanness, in both hunger and satiety. A meal nourishes our bodies, pleases our senses, and connects us to those seated near. What a powerful form of resistance! In the midst of trial, we gather to eat. The Old Testament is littered with different celebrations that include feasting. Eating a meal together is one of the most epic statements of faith we can make as humans. To eat and enjoy is to believe that we will have more.
It is easy to lose ourselves in a culture obsessed with productivity. We often skip the activities that would best serve our souls and genuinely connect us on a heart level. In Psalm 23 the psalmist says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” When I read that line, I have a picture of us, with smug faces, relaxed around a good meal. We are kicked back on a picnic blanket enjoying a piece of chocolate cake while the world tells us, “Get up, get busy, maximize your time, make more money.” Yet, we cannot serve the world if our body’s hearth is cold. Instead of toiling more, what if we fixed our eyes on God, who neither slumbers nor sleeps, who provides for his lovers even as they rest?
As the mom of three little people, I often find myself sneaking in meals without my kids present. Toddlers and mealtimes are historically chaotic and, most likely, loud, which can be frustrating. However, I think my kids need me there, asking them questions, cutting their food, and laughing at their antics, whether they are actually funny or not. Food and presence go hand-in-hand, which is why we should not forsake gathering together.
Let us remind ourselves that faith is feasting, come hell or high water. Amidst darkness, chaos, misfired dreams, broken promises, and delayed hopes, we spread the tablecloth with the intention to feed ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. Collectively, we may be a bit of a mess, but we continue to gather together, dipping the bread and passing the wine, and sharing the burdens of life together.
Kelsi Folsom holds a B.M. in Voice Performance and has traveled all over the world participating in operas, musicals, jazz bands, and choirs. Now a mom to “three under three”, she currently resides inSan Antonio, Texas while her husband attends medical school in Saba, Dutch Caribbean. When she is not putting on her best Cherubino while changing dirty diapers, you can find her perfecting gluten-free recipes, *gasp* reading, enjoying a nap, or trying to make sense of her life over french press. Kelsi writes here.