Tuesday, December 25, 2007

At the Family Table

12/07 Muncie Star Press

Because I was born late into my family, my earliest memories have always included my three sisters-in-law. So by the time my parents, my brothers and their wives occupied our holiday table, I was necessarily placed at the dreaded “kid table.”

I never liked this arrangement. At eight years old, I definitely had a lot of sparkling conversation to bring to the table. Alas, no adult ever gave up his seat so that the eight-year-old brat could sit at the grown-up table.

No matter how old we all grew, I remained youngest until my nephews came along, and then at least I had company at the kid table, even if they all spoke Elmer Fudd language.

The day finally came when as a newlywed, I returned home for the holidays. I can’t remember if I finally made the cut for the big table or not. But the following year, I had a two-month-old, and guess what—it was back to the kid table for me. And there I remained with all three of my children as they grew up, year after year.

Remembering the kid table recently inspired me: when my kids and grandkids come home for the holidays, just once, I’m going to turn the world on its ear and reserve places for the smallest people at the elusive grown-up table.

On a larger scale, society also has its rules about who belongs and ranks and who doesn’t. But just because humans have established pecking orders (caste systems, hierarchies of power, designations of respect) doesn’t mean they reflect the Lord’s standards at all. In fact, we position those with money and power at the head of the table, while others are relegated to back entries, wobbly stools and leftovers.

But Jesus, as surely as he tipped over the money-changers tables in the temple, flipped the status quo concerning who is first and who is last in his order. He washed dirty feet to show us how to be great in his kingdom. He forewarned us about pride and exclusivity.

In Luke 22:26-27 Jesus said to his disciples: "Kings like to throw their weight around and people in authority like to give themselves fancy titles. It's not going to be that way with you. Let the senior among you become like the junior; let the leader act the part of the servant. Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You'd rather eat and be served, right? But I've taken my place among you as the one who serves” (MSG).

And so we know how to live as his disciples--offering what we have to those who have less, dying to selfishness instead of demanding our desires, serving others.

Christmas is the season when we celebrate the birth of a King who refused to occupy a temporary earthly throne to experience a stable and a cross. Because of his extraordinary love, he now sits eternally at the right hand of the Father.

Someday there will be a banquet table at which we’ll all gather to share in the Lord’s great supper. Jesus lived, died and rose again for the joy of inviting every single person: “Come to my table; there is a place saved especially for you.”
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