The Perfect Christmas Feast

The Perfect Christmas Feast

Advent 3 (NL4) John B. Valentine
Isaiah 55:1-13 December 12, 2021

“THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS FEAST”

The topic on the table today is this text from Isaiah 55 ...

This text that begins: “Yo! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you that have no money, come, buy and eat!” ...

The text that contains some of the most eloquent and beautiful articulations of the promises of God in the whole of the Bible ...

And it’s a text that gets me to thinking about the perfect Christmas feast.

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Seriously ... I want to try something just a little bit different this morning ...

I want you to do a bit of daydreaming ...

And conjure up in your own mind’s eye your version of the perfect Christmas feast ...

Not just a ‘nice Christmas feast’ ...

Not even a ‘great Christmas feast’ ...

I want you to go big ... and think about what ... for you ... might constitute the PERFECT Christmas feast.

Seriously ... for the next thirty seconds ... I want you to imagine the PERFECT Christmas Feast.

You’re on the clock .... Tick ... tick ... tick ... Time’s up!

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Now ... honestly ... I’d LOVE to hear what it was that you came up with.

But betwixt

• our continuing masking mandates and ...
• my own hearing impairment and ...
• the limitations of our sound system for those folks who are watching this service via the Internet ...

I’m not thinking that will work so well ... so ... instead ... let’s go with a show of hands.

How many of you ... in your own mind’s eye ... gave thought to the WHAT .... to the FOOD and the BEVERAGES that would be placed upon the table??

• Did any of you conjure up a meal based on the fanciest foods and the most extravagant wines of the sorts you can acquire over at Diablo Foods?

• Did anyone go with an ethnic-specific menu of the sort that reminds you of foods that you ate growing up?

• Did any of you make sure that there were oodles of Grandma’s cookies overflowing the dessert table???

But you know ... feasting ... and the perfect Christmas feast ... isn’t JUST about the food on the table ... is it??

How many of you gave some thought to the location ... the venue ... WHERE the meal might be served??

• The old family homestead where so many Christmas feasts were shared in days now past?

• The family home which you currently inhabit ... or maybe the home of a family member?

• A fancy restaurant wherein you get to focus more on the feasting and less on the preparations?

• Maybe an exotic location in the islands or the mountains that holds particularly fond memories for you and those you love?

But meals of the sort we’re imagining are more than JUST about location and just about the food.

How many of you gave thought to WHOM you might be sharing that meal with at the perfect Christmas Feast??

I know that some of you ... like me ... would want to make sure that there’s some particular people there ...

• like kids and grandkids that live out of town that you’re not going to get to see this holiday season ....

• or maybe someone from whom you’re estranged that you wish you might be able to share a cordial meal again ...

• or a dear friend whom you haven’t gotten to see for far too many months ...

• or your beloved spouse who passed away a few years ago ...

• or maybe the great-grandpa you’ve heard so much about but whom you never got to know ...

• or maybe that lonely neighbor down the street who never seems to have anyone stop by to visit?

Here’s a funny angle on the question ... what about WHEN??

Obviously ... it’s a Christmas Feast ... so I’d assume you were thinking about either December 24th or 25th ...

• But how many of you imagined a time in the past??

• And how many of you imagined a time in the present??

• And did any of you go for a time somewhere out there in the future??

And since Feasts are just about the eating and the drinking ... but about the community and the conversation ...

Did any of you think about what was being said ... and being talked about by those whose hands were on the table???

• How maybe two people at the opposite ends of the political spectrum seemed to be willing to drop their defenses and ask about each other?

• How maybe the youngest at the table were listening to the oldest with respect .... and how the older were engaging with the younger?

• Or maybe just how those trite conversations about the trivialities of the day had given way to conversations about things that REALLY matter???

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Now you may think all this conjuring and conjecturing about the perfect Christmas Feast is just Pastor John’s way of avoiding serious sermon preparation this week ... but I’d have to say “Think again!”

You see ... when the biblical prophets ... folks like Isaiah and Jeremiah ... talked about the coming Kingdom of God ... oftentimes they did so by talking about a banquet or a feast.

And when the biblical song writers ... the folks who wrote the Psalms ... talked about the coming Kingdom of God ... they oftentimes did so by likening it to a banquet or a feast.

And when Jesus himself talked about the coming kingdom of God ... he oftentimes did so by likening it to a banquet or a feast.

So .... in a certain way ... every time we take time to celebrate ... to share a banquet or a feast with family members and friends ... we glimpse a foretaste of the feast that is to come.

You see ... of all the questions that perplex me as a pastor ... the one that always catches me up short is this one:

“Pastor ... what do you think heaven will be like?”

As if I know the answer to that question somehow better than you do.

You see ...

• I’m NOT clairvoyant ... and

• I have NEVER EVER been there / done that .... and

• I don’t have any particular secret knowledge that isn’t available to the rest of you ... and

• That’s something that they definitely DIDN’T teach me at seminary.

Talking about what heaven IS is something that not even Jesus does ... and according to the Bible ... he’s the ONLY one with “been there / done that” credentials on this subject ...

Rather ... Jesus likens heaven to a feast ... the perfect feast ... the perfect Christmas feast perhaps ... the feast you just imagined.

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But there’s one thing about this feast that maybe we neglect to notice.

This feast that Jesus invites us to come to ...

This feast that Isaiah details so vividly ...

It isn’t “The Perfect Christmas Feast” ...

Rather ... it’s “The Perfect Feast because of Christmas” ...

When Isaiah says “Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” ...

We know that we can only feast because of Christmas.

When Isaiah says “Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live” ...

We know that we can only live because of Christmas.

When Isaiah says “I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David” ...

We know that we’re a part of that covenant because of Christmas.

We know that we can seek the Lord ... because of Christmas.

We know that we can return to the Lord ... because of Christmas.

We know that we can know mercy ... because of Christmas.

We know that we can know peace ... because of Christmas.

We know that we can know hope ... because of Christmas.

It’s because of Christmas ... folks ... that we can partake in this perfect feast in the first place.

And so my prayer for you this holiday season is NOT that you will ... this year ... have the PERFECT Christmas feast.

But rather that your feast ... or your feasts ... however imperfect they might be ... will bring you to a new awareness that it’s because of Christmas that we have a reason to feast in the first place.

“The Perfect Christmas Feast” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine on the occasion of the 3rd Sunday of Advent.  The text upon which it is based is Isaiah 55:1-13.