catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 22 :: 2013.11.29 — 2013.12.12


A time for feasting

The forms and rites of Christmas Day are meant merely to give the last push to people who are afraid to be festive. Father Christmas exists to haul us out of bed and make us partake of meals too beautiful to be called breakfasts.

G.K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News (January 8, 1910)

While we feast, we savor. My mother pronounced this cardinal rule when I was a girl. Often, we’d be invited to eat a delicious dinner with friends or family members.  And then, instead of spending the time telling stories and enjoying the mouth-watering meal the entire conversation centered on how many calories we were consuming and how bad it was for us. My mother was right. No matter how well-intentioned our host, this is no way to feast.

In my home now, we do our best to live out the four long weeks of Advent waiting for the arrival of celebration. You’d think the celebrating part would be easier than the waiting.  Like all other spiritual practices, though, celebration comes with its own comforts and challenges.  How do we stay present to the feast without our senses dulling too quickly? How do we hold lightly the delights of Christmas rather than wringing out the wonder? 

My husband and I have been learning for 23 years and haven’t found any advice better than my mother’s edict: while we feast, we savor.  We savor gifts, food, people, time, story and merry-making.  We savor grace.

We try to go deep down to the roots of the Christmas feast days, to understand the sayings of the ancient prophets, the early Church fathers, the poets and the hymn writers from all eras.  We also belly laugh when Clark W. Griswold staples his Christmas lights to the roof.  We spend energy in finding the best gifts we can for the people we love.  We also spend a good bit of time handing out our own wish lists.  We do not feel guilt for our wants; instead, we revel in the sheer unnecessary delights of the season.

In short, we do not take ourselves too seriously.  May I clarify that this is not always our reality, but it is always our hope.  As the Scriptures and the ancient creeds settle down into the crevices of our understanding we ask Jesus to help us see him on the street corner and in the big box store.  We do our best to purchase our gifts with fair trade vendors, independent artisans and sometimes we add a few pennies to the Wal-Mart coffers, hoping the money will bless instead of curse.  We revel in the freedom to both feed the hungry homeless as well as our own four children grazing at the refrigerator. 

Jesus was no pious ascetic, shunning feasts and merrymaking. Haven’t we been told our future reconciliation with Christ unveils the greatest gift exchange in history?  He gives us a new heaven and a new earth, we give Him all glory, laud, and honor and crowns?  No matter how spiritual it might seem, fostering guilty consciences by limiting our enjoyment of Christmas does not make us more like Christ.  There is a time for fasting; Christmas is not that time.

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