Shortly before Thanksgiving, I had a "lightbulb" moment. I decided that I wanted to do something to mark the arrival of Christmas that was more significant than our annual, milk chocolate-filled advent calendars with the kids. Being that my husband and I are both people that love to fill our house with friends and loved ones and then feed them, weekly Advent dinners seemed to be the answer.
|Photo by Vudhikrai|
For those of you unfamiliar with advent, I found the following term definition "The liturgical period preceding Christmas, beginning in Western churches on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and in Eastern churches in mid-November, and observed by many Christians as a season of prayer, fasting, and penitence." Granted, we didn't fast, in fact, we kind of did the opposite, however, we did do some reflecting during the gathering and we also prayed. Well, I prayed one of my lengthy, "when-will-this-chick-stop-talking-so-we-can-eat" prayers, but it was good nonetheless.
The other primary difference would be that we gathered on the three Thursdays before Christmas instead of the four Sundays, simply out of convenience. A convenience that turned out to be a little less convenient than I had imagined, by the way.
I must admit, it was a bit more stressful than I had envisioned. First off, on the day of the very first dinner we hosted, our power was out from 8:05 a.m. until 5:15 p.m., which made food preparations a bit of a mad dash to the finish line. Secondly, I work on Thursdays. It's a little tricky to get home to finish the final bits of tidying and prepare my food contribution prior to the arrival of the first guest at 6:30 p.m. Fortunately, as stress prone as I am, my husband was always there relaxed and had most everything done before I even arrived home. There was always something that I would freak out about though, like hand prints on the door jambs of the bathroom or the disaster that is my sons bedroom... Oh! the boys bedroom always got me! But, it always worked out. Every time.
In fact, once people arrived, it was always an amazing time. My house was bustling with kids and conversation. It felt like home should feel like during the holidays. Then as we prepared to all sit down at one big table (kids were relegated to the "kid table"), I would read aloud the weekly Billy Graham Advent meditation in my typical pseudo-self-effacing, goofy manner with which I approach speak in front of people. It was always something that had the potential of cutting deep like "Are you following the plan of God in your life?" or "Are you spreading the Gospel of Christ with those that need it most this Christmas season?" It was a brief introspective moment in an otherwise fun and raucous night. Then I would pray, as previously mentioned.
Once everyone had their food, the adults would gather to eat at one table. One really long table. It was great! A usual Harwood gathering would include buffet style serving and people sitting in small groups where seating could be found. Not this time! We crammed in around one table and I loved every minute of it. To be able to see everyones faces at the same time. Sure, you could only really hear the people in your immediate vicinity, but to share a glance or a smile with everyone throughout the night was priceless.
We of course had desserts, yes, plural. It was kind of a different crowd each week and even the repeat visitors didn't want to bring the same thing week after week, so our menu was a little different every time. Even now, I can't pick my favorite night in the arena of food or company!
I just hope that those that attended our dinners enjoyed themselves and left filled with the warmth that can be gained only by sharing a meal with those you love. I also hope that each person that sat at our table had some time to consider Jesus; His birth, His life, His death and all that He means to each one of us.
I cannot wait until next year!