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Extending the Table

How we can eat and drink to the glory of God this holiday season
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It's 10 p.m. and I'm finally feeling grateful for this holiday meal. Mostly that it's over and we've all finally stopped eating. I consider the destruction. The table lies wasted. The candles have dissolved into stalagmites, which I know will never come out of the tablecloth. The staggering amount of leftovers prompt a rehearsal of my food performance: Was the meal good enough? My sweet potato cheesecake with a gingersnap crust was a hit, but the turkey was stringy and the broccoli was so overcooked I should have just whipped it with a beater and served it with the mashed potatoes. And did I really have to eat that second helping of chocolate-pecan pie with a whipped cream bouffant?

During the dinner, as I passed the platters of ham, turkey, and goose, the salads, the baskets of rolls, I thought of the billion people on the planet who labor daily for little, often nothing, on their plates. Here we are so encumbered with abundance, we seldom ask God for "our daily bread," and our most valiant, laudatory labor is pushing food off our plates.

How much guilt can a holiday meal serve up? Apparently as much as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Making for heavy holidays indeed.

A few years ago, burdened by the guilt and expectations of the feasting table, I began to reconsider the whole topic of food. I remembered the admonition from the apostle Paul that we are to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV). Have I ever consciously done this—brought my thoughts about food into obedience to Christ? I remembered, too, the familiar passage where Paul is discussing whether believers should eat food sacrificed to idols. He concludes by saying, "So whether you eat or drink [of this food], or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).

How could I eat and drink to God's glory then? I began studying the Scriptures and found in its pages an astonishing record of food. From the opening pages of Genesis, the whole story of redemption can be told through edibles, from the bite of the fruit leading to the fall, to the Passover meal eaten just before the flight from Egypt, to Jesus coming as the bread of life, his feeding of the multitudes, and finally, Jesus the bread broken for us.

As I've meditated on these and many more passages, I've been working joyfully at recovering a more biblical practice of eating and drinking, which has changed my holiday meals from a smorgasbord of guilt to real worship and celebration. I offer these suggestions as you begin to think about the foods you'll serve and share these coming days.

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Leslie Leyland Fields

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November 22, 2011  11:56am

I first became aware of "feasting" about a year ago in a study on the Spiritual Discipline of Fasting, and I have found it amazing and facinating that God uses food so much to describe aspects of our relationship with Him. Thanks for adding a bit more to the concept.

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November 19, 2011  8:45pm

While I have never invited the "poor", per se, to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, I am known in my family for inviting and bringing over friends, who have no plans or nowhere to go, to holiday our family gatherings . Two years ago a longtime friend and former Army buddy was stationed in town and was unable to fly home to Florida; so I invited him over for Christmas dinner with my extended family. Last year, another friend of ours had his mother visiting in October and she fell ill. A local doctor did not clear her to fly back home for several weeks. She was distraught that she would not be home in Seattle in time to cook Thanksgiving dinner with her other children and grandchildren. So when Thanksgiving rolled around I invited our friend and his mother both to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. She felt like she was surrounded by family afterall. Likewise, Easter this year, another long-time friend and single mother who has struggled to make ends meet could not afford to drive home to south Texas for Easter because of gas prices. She too has no family in town and so I invited her and her daughter to my family's Easter brunch. I try to reach our to people who I know will not have any family with which to share these special occasions and my family is very welcoming and genuinely love guests. We not only try to make them feel at home but also try to make them feel as though they are part of our family, even if just for the day.

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November 18, 2011  8:36am

Great Article. I got some good things out of it.

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