Take all the preparation we make for Christmas. All the shopping, all the chopping, all the planning, all the worrying, all the harvesting and blending and decorating and redecorating. Take all of the secrets and surprises, the dreams and the doubts and despair and delight.
It all comes down to a very simple meal around a simple table, bread and wine and a dozen friends.
We expand our gift-giving as wide as we can afford, and two steps past. Yet in our efforts to express our love, or at least our attentiveness, we never can spend as much as the bread cost for that simple meal.
And we explode our senses with color. Balls and bells, lights and fabric. Nothing is as vivid as the deep purple of the wine, or the crimson of the blood which lies behind it.
There is no either/ or about these images, I don’t think. Bright colors and elaborate feasts on one hand, flatbread and new wine on the other. One is not more spiritually elite than the other, one is not more divinely humble. I am convinced that when Jesus said that he was offering abundant life, he was serious. And when he ate huge feasts with newly repentant friends, with curious acquaintances, and even with spiteful critics, he delighted in the relationships and the food.
But when we pursue the riches as a replacement for the simple feast, we will stay hungry. And when we think we don’t need bread and wine, body and blood, and when our life is marked by not thy will but mine, we miss the meal that heals and feeds.
I know that that the first Easter came after the first Christmas. But the first Easter has reframed Christmas from mere wondering to sheer wonder at love’s gift.