Let the Gospel Disrupt your Holiday
BY ANNA MAITLIN HUGHES
My most memorable Thanksgiving was when I was eleven years old. My parents put two extra leaves in our dining room table and set out our special Thanksgiving tablecloth. This tablecloth has signatures from family members of past generations. Each Thanksgiving after eating together, we all sign our names, laughing over old boyfriends, and enjoying a time of reminiscence. But this is not what sticks out in my mind.
That year, a woman named Kristina lived with my grandmother; Kristina was from Serbia and played basketball at the college my grandmother worked at. My grandmother lovingly invited Kristina to our family’s Thanksgiving meal. Furthermore, several of Kristina’s teammates were unable to travel back to their various hometowns for the holiday break. So, that Thanksgiving our dining room table was more full than ever as women from all over the world crammed in between my grandparents, cousins, and immediate family to break bread. I have yet to see a more beautiful table in my home.
Scripture gives us another image of a beautiful table offered in hospitality. Second Samuel nine tells the account of David’s kindness to a man named Mephibosheth. Desiring to show kindness to Saul’s house, and for the sake of Jonathan, David seeks out Ziba, a servant within Saul’s house. Calling Ziba into his presence, David said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” After calling this son, Mephibosheth, to himself, David welcomed him to his table.
And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.” And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always – 2 Samuel 9:6-7
What a picture of our meal at heaven’s table. Like Mephibosheth, we are crippled people, who have done nothing to deserve kindness of the king. Yet, Jesus has adopted us in by his sovereign election and undeserved grace (Ephesians 1:5-7). We have done nothing to earn his goodness, yet he lavishes it upon us in banquet fashion. At age eleven, the basketball team around my Thanksgiving table did not ask to come; my grandmother invited them. In kindness, she loved and brought them in, and I saw Thanksgiving collide with the gospel. This holiday season, what would it look like to let the gospel take root in your home?
1.) Conversations worth having
If we were to examine our hearts this Thanksgiving, what would be underneath the meal prep and table decoration? Is pride keeping us from calling the wayward sister to dinner? Do jealously and bitterness create strife between cousins each year when the cornucopias come around? Instead, starve your pride this season and dig into what God might have for your family. No matter how sticky the situations or awkward the conversations, the gospel of peace transcends all. Let us not push the responsibility of loving difficult family members onto someone else. This season, through prayer and the Spirit’s power, love those around your table in truth and deed (1 John 3:18). Let God move, heal, and restore, as he wills. Lay down prideful guns and envious arms and pursue the conversations worth having.
2.) An authentic Thanksgiving spread
The most genuine Thanksgiving spread is not that of organic mashed potatoes and farm-raised turkeys. The authenticity of our banquet tables lies within our hearts and the gratitude therein. If we took a long look at our hearts this holiday season, what kind of gratitude would be expressed? Do our hearts “give thanks in allcircumstances” as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to do? Do we align with Ephesians 5:19-20 in “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”? Or is the gratitude within our heart dependent on the circumstances of life? Is the scale of our thankfulness fluid? Perhaps we are thankful for the blessings God has given us, but not his character. Jonathan Edwards says it well:
True gratitude or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what he is in himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on other grounds, viz. God’s own excellency.
Gratitude should not be rooted in God’s benefits, but rather grounded in God – in his person, his character, his excellency.
Just as we desire for someone to cherish us more than the gifts we give, so the same is with God. Our deepest gratitude should lie not in his gifts, though they are good. Our greatest gift this holiday season, and each moment in between, is the king of the universe, who draws us near and calls us friend.
3.) A home of hospitality
So with mouths speaking intentional conversation and hearts full of gratitude, we shift our gaze toward our banquet tables. Who is reclining?
[Jesus] reclined at a table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners – Mark 2:15-17
Would we be so bold to open our homes to someone new this season? Would you invite the widow from your community group that is without family this year? Or the international college student you nod your head to when bustling kids through the church doors? What about the veteran cashier at your local supermarket? The homeless woman around the corner? Maybe this Thanksgiving is the start of a weekly routine of opening up your home with gracious, hospitable arms (1 Peter 4:9). In humility, would we be so bold to align with the Gospel of Mark and Jesus’s words as we sit down with outcasts and the lonely.
The gospel is an avalanche. It descends in a rushing crescendo and irrevocably crashes into every corner of our lives. The “damage” is inconceivable. This gospel seeps into our relationships, workplaces, hangout spots and grocery store runs. Perhaps, in his kindness, God’s avalanching gospel would disrupt Thanksgiving. Our table would not be about the place settings and fine china, but rather it would be about the intentional conversations had there. The turkey and pumpkin pie would grow dim as our delight in God’s beauty overwhelms. How beautiful would it be if we took Scripture’s call to hospitality seriously. God welcomed you to his table. Let the gospel disrupt yours.