By Joel Hess –
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Psalm 23
I love the pictures of soldiers receiving communion in the middle of a war. In the midst of suffering, hate, and sin, Jesus comes through His Church (His people) with forgiveness and life. Like the messengers He sent to John, Jesus does not deliver them or John from their situation. Instead He visits them, feeds them, keeps their hearts and minds in Him and His promises. So no matter what they see around them, their chin is lifted knowing the cross and empty tomb is behind them while the resurrection and glory are before them.
So it is with Christmas. Jesus is plopped down in the midst of it all; in the womb of a humble nobody, next to shit and held tightly by rough worn hands. A meal indeed as He is wrapped in cloths lying literally in a feed trough! More than that He comes in the midst of sin and death, busted dreams and losing battles. Yet His beginning is just a preview of His ending as He announces, “it is finished,” hanging for our sins between two murderous rebels.
And in the midst of the dark and dirty a green shoot springs, nee, breaks the dungeon doors!
And in the midst of war He comes with cool water, and a magical Word; our sins are finished, forgotten, forgiven by God and that an eternal blossom begins in our own heart.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of enemies.
This Christmas you are likely surrounded by enemies, in some sort of war, battling demons outside or in, feeling defeated by your own succumbing to temptation. Good News. Christmas is not a place you go to. It’s not a fantasy on a screen or the result of existential struggle. Christmas comes to you where you are at – in the midst of your enemies; in the hospital bed, beside your dying mother, in your dark corner where you realize you are completely unworthy, unclean, out of control and helpless. Christmas is for you. The Lord prepares His table there; take and eat this is my body, take and drink this is my blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins. He is the bread of life quite literally.
So eat and drink dear sinners, scared and scattered, in the midst of battles and bruises. Christmas is for you.
Celebrate Christmas wherever you are, knowing that one day you will dine without enemies encroaching and with dinner companions from long ago. Today’s Christmas feast is itself a preview as Isaiah predicts:
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”