In 1984, I brought my girlfriend home to Far North Queensland, to meet my Mum at Christmas. Even though Mum hadn’t let on much, I figured that she was pretty excited to meet this girl, Heidi, who I had been raving about. My Mum is English, born and bred, so, when Heidi and I shared Christmas Lunch with her it was always going to be proper English Christmas feast with pork and pork crackling, turkey, baked potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, pumpkin, custard, boiled fruitcake boiled pudding (complete with hidden five cent piece). Mum, a superb traditional English cook, put on the lot for just Heidi and me.
We celebrate Christmas as a time for feasting. That is why we call Christmas a “Festival” of the Church year. “Festival” comes for the word “feast”.
So why have the English (and other Europeans) passed onto us this tradition of Christmas feasting, even though it means that many of us Aussies need to retreat to warm back yard patios to sleep off the traditional Christmas Lunch? We need to remember that in Europe, Christmas celebrations are often surrounded by snow for it is winter time there. In centuries gone by, a family needed to be careful with food throughout the winter months. You would not waste food because it was very difficult to replace depleted supplies when temperatures were below freezing.
But at Christmas time, these Christian people momentarily threw caution to the wind.
Why would they do that? They feasted because of the “feast of grace” that is the “reason for the season”. “Christ the Saviour is born,” is the Christmas message. The tradition of Christmas feasting has grown around centuries of Christian families drawing near to the manger and to finding ways to celebrate the abundant and amazing grace that God shows to us in the story of the Bethlehem manger.
Advent is the time to get ready for this message. Advent is the time we reflect deeply on the core meaning of the Christmas story. The Saviour is born because sin is at work in our world. The Saviour is born because of sin at work amidst our relationships. The Saviour is born because of sin at work in each of us.
Advent is the time to take serious stock of the sin. The Saviour born in a manger goes to the cross to suffer and die because sin is great. That well-loved verse from the Gospel of John reminds us, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” The Saviour is born and dies then rises on the third day that we would live in the joy of salvation.
As we feast together with family and friends, I pray that you would have opportunity to remind those around you of the feast of the forgiveness of sin; the feast of salvation and the feast of hope that we celebrate at Christmas time. May the good news of the manger send you into the new year with deep joy in the knowledge that God is with us and God is for us, for Christ’s sake.
At this Christmas time, I thank God for the service of staff of our Departmental Offices and of our District Office in Milton. God bless each of them for their collaboration in the cause of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus through our Lutheran Church in Queensland.