The huge servings of food started at Thanksgiving. But they didn’t end there. The grocery stores are filled to the rafters with holiday specials on everything from beef tenderloins to hams – and every imaginable kind of dessert. Decorations are already up in the shops and and we just got through Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday – of course, after all the Black Friday discount enticements. This year, for some reason, all the special days were extended in the hope of increasing sales. Perhaps merchants are worried about how good this Christmas season will be.
In our family, we are also getting ready to cook more than we have all year. Janet is about to make her Christmas holiday mix that the kids lovingly refer to as Christmas “crack.” They can’t get enough of it! Then, there is my mother’s world famous cranberry bread that I now make during the month of December. I went almost thirty years without making any but several years ago I started up the annual tradition that I grew up with and I have noticed that cranberries are already in the stores.
It’s also the time of year that I start to make soup for those cold winter days. Tuesday, I made split pea and ham soup for our daughter, Kristin, who is dealing with pneumonia right now. It’s one of my higher demand items and so I always have to make a double batch for our family.
I have also had more requests for pulled pork, beef jerky, summer sausage, kielbasa and pizza! In addition to all that, I also have started making ice cream this year. It seems that the more things I make, the greater the number of requests that I have.
I derive a great amount of joy from all this cooking. It’s a great pleasure to cook for others who really appreciate the effort. That’s enough for me. In addition to leadership and teaching, I have a spiritual gift of hospitality. Food is a great way to bring people together and deepen relationships with one another.
There are many instances of food being the way to entertain guests in the Old Testament and also throughout the ministry of Jesus. There is the story of Abraham entertaining a stranger, presumed to be God. And many of the disciples were fisherman – providing sustenance to the communities that they lived in.
Jesus cooked breakfast for the disciples in the story of the restoration of Peter and in probably the most famous story of food in the New Testament, Jesus delivered His last instructions to His apostles at the Last Supper, prior to His arrest and subsequent crucifixion.
Clearly, cooking and the spiritual gift of hospitality play pivotal roles in the stories of the Bible. Our verse for tonight comes from Nehemiah. After the Babylonian exile, Nehemiah was charged with the task of rebuilding walls around the Temple of the people of God. We are told in Nehemiah 8:10, “Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
My encouragement this evening is that food is a great way to share and deepen relationships with others. My prayer is that we will practice the gift of hospitality this Christmas season – not only with our friends and neighbors – but that we will also remember those families who struggle in our cities with food insecurity. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…