Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Feasts Jesus Style

For as long as there has been Christmas, there has been Christmas dinner. The Christmas feast is older than any other of the traditions we associate with Christmas—trees, lights, even gifts. Christmas began as an opportunity to gather with your family and community and to take the best food you had and enjoy yourselves. In many communities, Christmas and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection were days to take a break from the restricted diet they would have the rest of the year. In ancient times, Christmas might be the one opportunity for people to eat meat, as grains, dairy and vegetables were their staples for the rest of the year. It is as difficult to separate Christmas from a feast, as it is to separate Thanksgiving from the meal.

Was there a feast at the original Christmas?
However, the Christmas story has little to do with a feast. In fact, one might say, it had to do with people who were in such difficult circumstances that they were lucky to eat. The first Christmas is about a family with a pregnant woman forced by the government to make a two day walking journey for the sake of bureaucrats in the capital. And when that family reached their extended family, they were forced to sleep in the stable, which is where the baby was born. It has to do with a group of workers that had so little respect that they couldn’t be called blue collar, and their sighting of angels in the sky. It has to do with a group of scholars who traveled thousands of miles to do homage to a great king, just born, only to find that they were a part of a conspiracy to kill infants in a village. These were not people who were feasting. These were people in sad circumstances.

The Feast of All Feasts
And yet Christmas is about a happy time, not a time of sorrow, or danger. How is this?
It is because each of these people in unfortunate circumstances received news that they were in the first stages of getting out of their bad circumstances. Christmas is like celebrating the day you heard you would receive a huge inheritance from someone you didn’t know, even though the inheritance itself you wouldn’t see for months yet. These people had heard that it was time for them to receive a great promise.
• Joseph heard that he would adopt a son who would deliver the whole world from oppression.
• Mary heard that she would be the mother of the man who would bring the poor God’s blessings.
• The shepherds heard that God would soon be ruling on earth in the person of a baby in a manger.
• The wise men heard that a powerful king was born in Judea.

Christmas isn’t about the great time everyone had when Jesus was born. Rather, it is about the promise of God that was beginning to be fulfilled in Jesus.
God promised to forgive sins—that was accomplished in Jesus.
 God promised to heal diseases—that was accomplished in Jesus.
 God promised to establish a new nation—that was accomplished in Jesus.
 God promised to wipe out oppression—that was started in Jesus.
 God promised to have a just, merciful ruler—Jesus is the one.

So Christmas isn’t about a bunch of people in sad circumstances—but rather it is about a celebration of the best news anyone can receive. The news was this: God, through this baby, will change the whole world so those in difficult circumstances will have a reason to party!

Can we have feasts in Jesus’ name?
Now there wasn’t much feasting at that first Christmas time. Times were too tough for the people involved. Yes, there was singing, and rejoicing. But not much opportunity for a feast. However, God has always enjoyed a good feast when it was time to celebrate. God had commanded his people, the Israelites, to take one tenth of their income for a whole year and have one big party with it every year—just to celebrate before God!

And Christmas is the celebration of the first stage of the biggest party ever—the kingdom of God. Jesus often referred to his kingdom as one big party in which all his people will be celebrating and having a good time! And Jesus himself set up and was the host of party after party when he was on earth, all to celebrate the coming of God’s kingdom. So what better time than Christmas to have a Jesus feast! It is an opportunity to celebrate the coming kingdom of God and to have a good time, just like we will in God’s kingdom.

Jesus’ way of Feasting

However, if we are going to celebrate and have a party in Jesus’ name, it can’t just be any kind of party. Jesus set up a few rules if we are going to party for Jesus. These aren’t the rules we normally think of—the no-drinking, no-dancing kind of rules. They are odd, rather:

1. Jesus said to invite the needy rather than family and friends
Jesus wanted parties to be an opportunity to be a part of the big Party that was to come. To gain greater benefits in God’s Kingdom, we need to give up what we have to those who need it most. Our family and friends—there’s always another day to invite them to celebrate. But a Jesus party is one in which the needy and hurting are invited. Perhaps it might make the party less fun for you. Perhaps it would cost you more. Perhaps it would be more difficult for you. But in the end you gain more in God’s kingdom for having a Jesus party only for the homeless, disabled and outcast. Because God will give you a bigger party in the end.

2. Jesus set up parties which were opportunities to repent from sin
As we mentioned, Jesus had many parties himself. But whenever he had a party, he gave an opportunity to have people get right with God and repent from their rebellion against God. It was kinda like having a church service in the midst of a party! But that’s the way Jesus did it. People would sometimes just speak out their repentance, or pray in the middle of the feast! Even so, a Jesus party celebrates God’s forgiveness by offering it to others.

3. Jesus established a feast to remember his death
Also, Jesus established a memorial feast that was supposed to remember his death. This seems kind of grim, having a wake all the time, but it’s really not. Jesus established this party, not to remember the terrible details of his murder at the hands of the state, but to remember that it is through his death that God’s kingdom got it’s start. That’s right! Jesus asked us to remember the birthday of God’s kingdom! Christmas is a good time to have this feast. Let’s have a good time and also, let’s focus on Jesus and what he did for us!

Have a Jesus party for Christmas
To Celebrate God’s Party to Come!

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