There's this internet-famous picture of a microwavable holiday meal for one. It includes all the things that one would expect for a Christmas meal, except in a much sadder state. There is a single piece of turkey that looks breaded and fried, but has an odd orange color to it. There is also a small, sloppy section for potatoes with a small slice of butter on top. Lastly, the largest section is stuffing or dressing covered in gravy, which was a creepy, mossy green tint.
When I first saw this image, my reaction was one of discomfort and sadness. An image coalesced in my mind of someone buying this meal, going home to a lonely and cold home to eat their microwavable meal in silence. It seemed so opposed to what I believed the holidays should be about – happiness and neighborliness.
I showed the image to a friend of mine, who nodded solemnly. “A meal fit for the first Christmas,” they said. I looked at them with confusion and asked what they meant. “Don’t you think this would be something like the meal Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus would have had the night he was born?” I thought on this. I had never considered what the family had eaten that night. Surely their meal hadn’t been anything fancy, and it was doubtful they had a home-cooked meal, since all the inns were full. Perhaps they had eaten something comparable to this microwavable meal for one.
The whole question of the meal made me consider why we celebrate Christmas day at all. The situation seems to humble and degrading. God Incarnate is born in a glorified barn and placed in a feeding trough. Joseph and Mary are probably tired from their journey, and uncertain about the future. Yet, we celebrate the moment with joy. Why?
We have come to associate the holidays with glamour and luxury disguised as festivity and cheer. We tend to forget about the thankfulness we should feel for God’s in-breaking into humanity in such a humble way, but replace it with our own desires for happy moments and material excess. I’m not suggesting we give up this holiday, or the way we celebrate it, but to keep in mind the origins of the holiday as a whole. Ultimately, God’s love and compassion is shown through this lonely and degrading moment in a barn and a feeding trough. That is why we celebrate.
The Table is a Christian Church in Davenport, Iowa, pursuing transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith
Worship Sundays at 5pm, 102 E. 2nd St. Davenport Iowa