We live in a time when the focus of civilisation is on speed. Fast cars, fast trains, fast aircraft, and fast food. For many of us it would be hard to imagine a world without these things and yet, not long ago, none of these existed. This was bought home to me several years ago when we went for a walk on Christmas Day. There were no cars driving on our local roads, not even an aircraft passing overhead, in fact, there wasn’t any sound of machinery, and yet this is how the world was in the recent past.
The legacy of the past is its slowness, its peace, its patience, its care for others, its knowledge of the seasons of nature and of life, and it’s sharing in the sense of community.
The legacy of the present is the mobile phone, the car with its windows vibrating because it is fitted with a sound system that would be sufficient for a small concert hall, the reliance on a supermarket for a quick in and even quicker out once-a-week shop, 24 hour TV, the microwave, piped music everywhere, boil-in-the-bag food, ready meals and car alarms.
For many today life is but a non-stop treadmill and they are running ever faster on it yet getting nowhere whatsoever in a quest to achieve or maintain that certain something that for so very many has lost its meaning, that certain something being a ‘high standard of living’. This ‘high standard of living’ ignores the simple pursuits of life, gardening, cycling, maintaining and making friendships, sitting listening to music , cooking, and reading. Instead there is the instant garden of the garden centre, the car, the snatched email, background music while doing another task such as reading the never finished book and watching celebrity chefs on TV.
Then... once a year... there is Christmas.
For many this is the only time they are together as a family group, sitting around a table and eating together and often in the Bible shared meals are mentioned. I often think that theologians ignore the fact that must have been great fun to be with Jesus, anyone who can turn water into wine must have been a sure-fire hit at parties!
In the past for the vast majority the ceremonial centre of the house was the kitchen table. All the main events of the household were celebrated by communal meals there, births, deaths, birthdays; Easter, Christmas, and going away as well welcome home meals were shared and eaten there. The kitchen table, with the air around heady with the smell of cooking, turned into a place of discussion and debate, of experiences shared, of friendship shared and renewed and of warmth and comfort.
Often these meals were, by today’s standards, very simple and ‘unsophisticated’ affairs. Food would have been local, grown or reared in the area and stored extremely carefully. Wine from the other side of the world and fresh beans from Africa or strawberries from South America would not have been on the menu, nor would have been a huge joint of meat but the words of Proverbs 15:17 would have summed up the atmosphere perfectly. "Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred".
I pray that your table may be weighed down with love this Christmas.