How many of you ate too much this holiday season?
How many of you ate just enough?
You know, the thing about family gatherings, celebrations, and joyous events is that they are feast times in our lives.
We gather around tables.
We break bread.
We share stories.
And we experience life to its fullest.
As the prophet, Isaiah, envisions the day of salvation, he writes about “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.” (Isaiah 25:6)
There will be joy on that morning.
There will be celebration on that day.
And the table will be full.
Now, this would have been a powerful image of hope in the midst of Isaiah’s day. Israel had been torn apart and God’s people had suffered violence and oppression. There is nothing left.
Heidi Haverkamp invites us to imagine refugees from a modern war finding a heavy banquet table in the middle of nowhere… an oasis in the midst of the desert of struggle and pain and fear.
The people and creatures of Narnia have known such struggle. They are survivors of a time of oppression and violence and loss.
But in the midst of their fear and anxiety, they also hung on to hope.
The Pevensie children, Edmund, Susan, Peter, and Lucy, are welcomed into the home of the Beavers who set out a feast of fish and potatoes, sticky marmalade rolls, bread and butter. They filled their bellies with food and their hearts with hope.
And then, Father Christmas arrived.
If you were with us last week, we talked about how the cold winter of the White Witch’s power was so strong that it was always winter and never Christmas.
But the world began to thaw.
The seasons began to turn with the promise that Aslan was near.
And Father Christmas came as a symbol of hope, that the winter would soon end, that a new day was coming.
And when he came across a group of Narnians in the woods, Father Christmas set out a feast of plum pudding and wine, delicious food, and decorations.
It was a scene right out of Isaiah.
The day of salvation was near.
And yet, that day of salvation is still oh, so, far away.
As those grateful people of Narnia sat to enjoy their meal with laughter and merriment, the White Witch comes along and turns their joy into silence. She turns them into stone.
The promise has not yet been fulfilled.
As Haverkamp writes in her reflections for this season, “A special family meal isn’t a promise that nothing will every go wrong again. The people of Isaiah’s time would be torn apart by war and sent away into exile. In Narnia, the Christmas supper party would be turned to stone. But the people of Israel knew that God was with them, no matter what, and that God’s promises to them were eternal.”
Every time we gather around this table, we feast, too.
We feast on bread and wine.
We remember stories and laugh and cry.
We are re-connected by these offerings of live giving sustenance.
And we know that this meal is only a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
One of most holy moments for me every Christmas Eve is to gather around this table and around the manger and break bread together.
In this one moment, the whole story of our faith is present.
Christ was born. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
While it might seem morbid to remember on that night that the child born in the manger was born to die, for me it is a reminder of just how fully God entered our human existence.
God took on our flesh and came into our lives in one of the most vulnerable ways one could imagine.
This child cried and was utterly dependent upon the milk from his mother and the care and protection from his earthly father. He learned to walk and scraped his knees. And every step of the way, as he grew into a man, he reached out and connected with the least, the last, and the lost…. And the rich and powerful.
Our God fully took on our flesh and reached out to welcome children and talked with women and taught men what it meant to truly be the people of God.
He was praised and he was ridiculed. He wept. He was angry. God became one of us.
And then our God died for us.
In the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, there is a moment when all hope appears lost. In order to save the life of one of the Pevensie children, Edmund, the one who betrayed the rest of his siblings, Aslan gives up his own life to the White Witch.
He willing hands himself over to her in a scene that brings to my mind memories of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And he is killed.
The two girls, Lucy and Susan, weep over his body… like the women who went to the tomb early on Easter morning.
And as they walk to catch a glimpse of sunrise, they hear a loud crack. The stone on which Aslan had been killed cracked in two. He rose and stood behind them triumphant.
And then, Aslan shared that resurrected life with the creatures of Narnia. He flew to all those who had been turned to stone and breathed upon them, setting them free from the curse of the White Witch.
Today, we remember that in the very beginning our God breathed into us the breath of life.
We remember that our God took on human flesh and lived among us.
We remember that our God in Christ freely gave up his life so that we might have life and life abundant.
And today, we remember … every time we eat this bread and drink this cup, the promise of salvation.
Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell wrote in her reflection upon the Isaiah passage that the “prophet’s message of hope [is]for the day when God invites everyone to the banquet table, and death’s power is destroyed forever. The veil will be torn away and God will end our mourning by wiping away our tears. This is the God we have waited for. This is the moment we have waited for. This is the invitation we have waited for.”
This is the invitation we have waited for.
God has prepared a feast.