“And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more” ~St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
What’s the most important piece of furniture in your house? Is it your bed? Maybe that recliner where you do all your binge watching? Or is it your table? I hope you say it’s your table. The table is important. It is there we gather, not only for physical nourishment, but also the emotional sustenance of human contact. Around the table we break bread and we open ourselves to others. We let down our guard and let others in. The table is the most important purchase your family will ever make.
Sadly, research shows that we don’t eat together nearly as much as we used to. We spend less time cooking and even less time actually sitting together and eating. In our fast-paced world we have sought ways to make the table more efficient, quicker. Meals are now ready-made by your local grocer, delivered to your door via an app or brought to you at your favourite restaurant. The table has become wherever you can find a place to sit down. The results show in our bodies and in our relationships, both of which are just not as healthy as they should be.
Jesus understood the importance of the table. He never passed up the chance to eat and drink with others. That earned him a reputation as a gluttonous drunkard. He also ate with everyone regardless of status, gender, nationality or religion. That probably got him killed. The early church carried on his practice of table fellowship. Still today the central act of the majority of Christians is the Eucharistic meal. Although it often gets lost in all the pomp and ceremony, at the heart of the Eucharist is a simple meal shared among friends.
Everything we do as a church flows from our gathering around the table. This is the essence of what Paul is saying to the Philippian Christians when he prays that their love would overflow (1:9). From the abundance of God’s love overflowing into the Eucharistic meal, may that same love overflow from their table to the community and world around them.
We know, too, that Advent is a time of looking ahead and getting ready. Yes, we are preparing for the coming of God in human flesh in Jesus Christ, but we also look ahead to a time when all things are made new. Even this is envisioned as a great gathering together of the human family to feast at God’s table (Rev. 19:9). Our table fellowship now is a sign of that great gathering. On a regular basis we pray, “That we, with all your people, of every language, race, and nation, may share the banquet you have promised.”
So this Advent and Christmas season, as we gather around the church table, and as we gather around the tables of our homes, may we be mindful of the needs of those around us. As we are blessed with the nourishment of God’s presence and the fellowship of those we love, may we share those blessings of food, comfort and presence with a hungry, hurting world. And may we do this together.