'On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast...It will be said on that day, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation"'.
There were two things that marked the nearness of Christmas for me as a child. The first was the arrival of my grandmother, my father's mother. The day I came home from school and saw my grandparents' car was almost as good as Christmas morning. The other was, of course, the food. I don't know whether we had a rule that egg nog was not to be consumed before the first Sunday of Advent, but a hot cupful, sprinkled with nutmeg, could never be enjoyed so thoroughly without a Christmas tree to admire.
I have often wondered about the way we celebrate Christmas: what does all this food have to do with the reason for our celebration? But somehow, looking at these texts together, it makes sense. The abundance and richness of the feast we share at Christmas should remind us of the feast for which we hope in Advent.
Isaiah describes in some detail the feast that the Lord will prepare, and the psalmist repeats the theme of its abundance--in the face of the evidence. God will provide, and God will save, however unlikely it may seem at the time. And then there's Jesus, confronted with a hungry crowd and very little food: satisfaction seems unlikely indeed. Yet all 'ate, and were satisfied'.
Not only that, though. The description of the feast, and the miracle of the loaves and fishes reminds me that God is both able and willing to save, even when salvation seems impossible. Looking at my own life, past and present, I see what seem to be insurmountable obstacles not to success or happiness, but to hope. Too often, I find myself standing in the crowd, feeling hungry, or walking in the shadows, feeling afraid. I forget the invitation to the Lord's table, I forget that I taste the feast Isaiah describes, every time I receive the Lord's body and blood.
I hope that this year, when I delight in chestnut stuffing and Christmas cake, I will remember the Lord who came, and gave himself to save us, and believe more deeply that he will come again in glory.