Right before Thanksgiving, I saw a post on social media by someone who said they were going to have a laid-back kind of Thanksgiving this year, meaning they weren’t going to be doing a huge meal. I understand that some years, life is overwhelming, and the thought of preparing a lot of food and doing a formal meal seems to be too much.
Yet as I was helping my mom and brother in the kitchen on Thanksgiving day, I had a rush of joy over the table settings of silver and china and the smells of various dishes bubbling and simmering away. I told my mom, “I think God delights in feasts and wants us to do the same.”
In fact, I don’t just think God delights in feasts – I know he does. Leviticus 23 starts with these verses:
“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.”
And then the chapter goes on to detail the various feasts that the Israelites were supposed to keep throughout the year.
Feasts were a way to celebrate what the Lord had done in his people’s lives, and there were various rituals that went along with them. There were specific types of food to eat, offerings to be made, prayers to be said, and a call to rest from work. God had blessed his people abundantly, and he wanted them to enjoy the fruits of their labor and give thanks back to him.
And we see in the Old Testament that when the people stopped feasting, they started wandering from God. When they were too busy with their own lives to pause and commemorate what God was doing, sin became more prominent and idol worship became easier. Feasts were a corporate way for the Israelites to remember who God was and show him their worship through celebration.
Now, in America, we typically feast on holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and the Fourth of July. But as I thought about it, I decided there should be more feasting in the upcoming year with friends.
The reasons are several, but I found the deepest reason so aptly put in this portion of a liturgy from the book Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey:
A Liturgy for Feasting with Friends
To gather joyfully
Is indeed a serious affair,
For feasting and all enjoyments
Gratefully taken are,
At their heart, acts of war.
In celebrating this feast
We declare that
Evil and death,
Suffering and loss,
Sorrow and tears,
Will not have the final word.
But the joy of fellowship, and the welcome
And comfort of friends new and old,
And the celebration of these blessings of
Food and drink and conversation and laughter
Are the true evidences of things eternal,
And are the first fruits of that great glad joy
That is to come and that will be unending.
May this shared meal, and our pleasure in it,
Bear witness against the artifice and deceptions
Of the prince of the darkness that would blind
This world to hope.
May it strike at the root of the lie that
Would drain life of meaning, and
The world of joy, and suffering of redemption.
[The rest is cut out for the sake of space.]
In the last few years, our world has become so divided and hostile toward one another. What better way to fight back against the darkness than by intentional gathering and celebration with one another? What better way to seek unity than by literally joining hands around a table as we eat and drink and converse? The enemy seeks to divide us; we seek to conquer by loving one another and living together well.
So how shall we approach this “serious affair” of “gathering joyfully”? A few ideas for those who might be inclined toward feasting with friends this year:
Spread Out the Load of the Food
Probably the biggest burden of hosting a “feast” is the expense and work of making all the food. I recently got some new cookbooks, and while I’m excited about trying new recipes this year, I know how exhausted I get when there’s a lot of dishes to prepare.
So have all the guests pitch in. If you, as the host, let them know the main dish you’re preparing, you can have others volunteer to bring the side dishes, the salads, the drinks, and the desserts. If you’re inclined towards themes, you could try various cultural themes or those around a certain genre (of literature, time period, or movie).
Make the Table Dressings Important
While I have many parties where we grab paper plates and load them up to bring them into the living room where we balance them on our knees, there’s something much more special about gathering around a table.
I love making a table beautiful—with tablecloth, folded cloth napkins, and wine glasses (for whatever kind of beverage we might desire). Centerpieces are also lovely, although with small tables, they sometimes make it crowded. All of these table dressings, however, add to the “convocation” of the moment—that we are taking time to invest in making the meal aesthetically pleasing as well as pleasing to the palate.
If one member of your friend group is too busy to make a dish for a dinner, maybe they could come a little early and be the one in charge of dressing and arranging the table. Or perhaps there’s someone in your group who has an eye for such things and that’s always their job for your feasts.
Have Good Conversation Pieces
Another thing you could rotate through is who’s in charge of the conversation piece. A tangible way of “fighting back against the darkness” is by deepening our conversations to talk about the things that matter and build each other up.
I was recently gifted “The Hygge Game: Cozy Conversation in Pleasant Company,” and while it’s not exactly a game, it does have cards with 300 different questions to start great conversations. The person designated to the conversation piece could pull questions from these cards to get the conversations going or they could come with a thought or question from something they’ve been reading lately (from the Bible or another book).
Obviously, good friends will always find things to talk about, but sometimes we stay too much on the surface without challenging our minds and hearts to go deeper together. Let’s change that by weaving in specific guidance to our conversations.
Infuse the Feast with Prayer and/or Liturgy
And of course, the most important part of the feasting is to offer it up as an act of worship and celebration before God. When I was growing up, we always held hands around the table when we prayed. I never thought about this until I went to someone else’s house for dinner and went to hold hands during the prayer before realizing they didn’t do that.
I think it’s a beautiful way to show unity (also, since I’m a theater person, I don’t get awkward about touch), and I think starting the feast with prayer and perhaps the reading of the liturgy mentioned earlier would be a great way to commemorate the feast to the Lord.
In the end, feasts take time. They take money. They take buy-in from everyone involved. But I think they’re worth it. I think that the time spent together around a table with dear friends is not time wasted, but rather time that matters for eternity.
Like the end of the liturgy says,
“All will be well!
Nothing good and right and true will be lost
Forever. All good things will be restored.
Feast and be reminded! Take joy, little flock.
Take joy! Let battle be joined!
Let battle be joined!”
Let us raise our glasses for more feasts and more joy in fellowshipping with one another in 2022.