This post is slightly ahead of the curve – JUSTembrace has only hosted five of its six holiday meals so far. We have one more in less than a week, and the whirlwind of six turkeys, endless green beans, corn pudding and mashed potatoes will be behind us. Dish after dish will have been washed and put away, the extra tables will be taken down, the presence of an actual house outside of dinner parties will start to return. Who knew huge holiday parties could be so consuming? OK, maybe we did know they would take over our lives, especially in addition to the continuing birthday and Christmas parties in the community, the foot clinics, weekly small group and everything else in the community. Luckily, Sher has remembered to thaw that turkey each and every time.
Would anyone even ask if it is worth it? Rearranging our lives and schedules to intentionally bring in a unique crowd over and over to experience the joy of a family holiday party in a home has been as life-giving as it sounds. Stressful at times? Yes. Exhausting? Yes. But the comments, the affirmations, the voicemails, the smiles, the beautiful relational encounters that have happened over our extravagant yet humble table settings has been a gift from God. He has strengthened and renewed us through each meal, even when our focus has been distracted or our hearts not in the best place. Each and every one of these meals has been a new spiritual meal, filling me with conversations that I can not even fathom, filling me with the spirit that exists in a community of real humanity.
A little woman who lives but a mile from us and has been a warrior for love and justice in this neighborhood for decades came to a meal of ours a few weeks ago. She called the next day, letting us know her Thanksgiving was filled with joy through that meal. This dear woman experienced a family, experienced camaraderie, experienced exactly what I experienced that night – community, communion with each other covered and strengthened by the God who shows us how to eat with each other, how to sit together, how to love one another in a very practical and real way Jesus loved His disciples and everyone around Him.
If you have a holiday meal you’re looking forward to or dreading during this season – take heart. Go ready to receive community, ready to give yourself. Feel the intimacy that comes with the clanking of silverware and the full, satisfied feeling of eating a bit too much. Don’t let those moments pass you by.