Feasting is an endangered cultural act. In ancient times, feasts lasted for days, accompanied by delicacies, dancing, singing, storytelling, toasting and prayer. Even if the harvest was small or times were bleak, communities, tribes, clans and families would scrounge up whatever edible treasures they had, travel from great distances and gather together to feast. They would spread a lavish table filled with their best wine, choicest meats, freshest herbs and fill their lamps with oil. All of it was a deliberate celebration of life, symbolic thanks to a God who richly provides. Some holidays continue this celebratory tradition — Thanksgiving and Christmas are a few of the feast days we Americans preserve. We still excel at the food — the lines at the grocery stores testify to that! Exuberant music still fills the air and in some regions dancing remains the nightcap of a good feast. And while prayer is not completely absent from our modern-day feasts, I wonder if our prayers have become cliché, bland, trite, etc. Do we really carve out a few moments to reflect on what we have before us?
As a Christmas gift, I offer these prayers for your table. Whether you borrow one that I wrote or pen your own, may your table be even richer this year, as you take the time to give word to the feast in your heart.
Abundant God, thank you for filling our table with food to nourish our bodies, people who bless our lives, and most of all, your presence. May we look at this table, this food, and see that you have given us more than we need. May we learn to take only a fair portion and share with those beside us. Help us remember those who go without — without food, family, health, shelter, or hope. Show us how our riches can fill the hands of those in need. This coming year, make room in our hearts and at our tables for people with whom we can share your abundant love. Amen.
The candles lit before us are symbols that the darkness is overcome. God of light, by the flame of your love, you made paths through shadowed wastelands. You led your people through bleakness, fear, doubt, and pain. You shepherded them through fields of twinkling stars, into dawn where the soft rays of day warmed their skin. In the same way, lead us out of the darkness of this past year. Give us the warm hope of new life, new opportunities, new vision. Help us see the Son each day, so that when dusk and midnight come, we can walk confidently toward morning. Amen.
Comforter, we remember the loved ones we lost this year. In our hearts we lift before you the names of our beloved friends and family. (silence) We pray for those far way from us and from you. Bring them near. Give us patience as we wait for their return. (silence) We pray for strangers, for the aliens and foreigners in our country and in all countries; may they receive kindness and friendship. (silence) God, thank you that we are together, sharing our time, our stories, this food. May all we do and say show love, joy, peace and patience. May we give gifts of kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness. As we eat, may we have self-control. Fill us with your love. Amen.
God, I’m desperately lonely. I have food but no friends. I have a house but no hope. I have disposable wealth but I’m spiritually poor. Where are you God? Who are you? If I ask, will you join my table? Do you even love people like me? Anyway, I’m here. There’s an empty chair and it’s yours if you want it.
Hosts: We are thankful for each person here tonight.
Guests: We are glad to be here.
Hosts: We are thankful for this food.
Guests: May it bless our bodies.
Hosts: God, help us recognize the gifts you have given each of us.
Guests: Lord, teach us how to pass blessing to others.
Hosts: Guide our conversation.
Guests: May we encourage one another.
All: Thank you for this table, this feast, this love. Amen.
Person 1: May this food fuel our bodies;
Person 2: May this laughter fill our spirits.
Person 3: May these friendships give us joy;
Person 4: May your love birth contentment.
Person 5: And however we are wanting,
Person 6: Grant us peace, faith and patience.
Jesus, today we have come together to celebrate your birth. If you had not been born as a human child, grown and ministered as the wise Son of God, died like a thief and rose from the dead, we would not know forgiveness, freedom from sin, the delight of new life, or hope for an eternal future with you. We are profoundly grateful for your ultimate gift of sacrifice — to die in our place. Thank you Lord. Thank you Lord. Thank you Lord. Amen.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
In love and faith, Corrie