October 2007 - Vol. 12
 
Feast or Famine?

Have we lost our ability to feast? 
And what can we do to recover this important part of Christian culture?

Part one of a two-part series
by Bernhard Stock

illustration by Jamie Treadwell

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, 
and all the host of them. 
And on the seventh day God finished his work 
which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day 
from all his work which he had done. 
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. 
(Genesis 2:1-3a)
The Origin of Feasting
Right at the beginning of all, we see that God is active – he creates a vast universe. But then he finishes his work, and he establishes a day of rest – the seventh day, the Sabbath. Of course, this is not the end of God acting, as if, after this he has been just leaning back and watching what mankind does with his world. 

This idea of God as a passive deity who no longer interferes with the world was, by the way, a theological position called Deism. Many Christians still think like Deists, as if God were no longer active –a mere philosophical principle. But God is still at work. He is a living God, who intervenes, acts in our lives, and speaks to us.

A Glorious Interruption
When God inaguarated the Sabbath, he actually interrupted his work and established a feast. And for us also, following his lead, a real feast is to be an interruption of day-to-day-life.

For there to be an interruption, there has to be something to interrupt – such as the normal day-to-day-life and activities, the hard work, the worries of life. We can only celebrate well and enjoy a feast if it is something special – something set-apart from the daily routine of life. And this means that people in our times, especially in the Western world, are in danger of loosing our ability to celebrate. In a world where almost everything is special, where we can live in material abundance, where we can have almost everything we want, and some people don’t even have to work for it – in a world like this nothing becomes special. Can we who are  wealthy by historical and current world standards really celebrate? No! If our lives are one ongoing party, in the long run, they become dull, shallow, and boring.

Sometimes I hear people complain about the work they have to do in preparing a celebration – the decoration, the cooking – but this is part of the real feast! It gives you all the more joy if at the end of all the work you can sit down and look around and say (like God did): behold, it is very good.

Eternal Roots in God
Scripture also teaches us that the genuine feasting has its origin in God – it has eternal roots. In fact, we cannot create a real feast. We cannot sit down and find a cause for celebrating and then celebrate. The cause of the real feast is already given to us. It’s not something we achieve on our own. 

All major feasts in the Jewish and Christian tradition have at their root something which God did – he delivered his people from Egypt, he gave the commandments, he sent his Son, and the Son, Jesus, rose from the dead, bringing us the promise of our own resurrection in him. We can see that as more feasts become secularized, they loose their eternal origin and meaning (some modern feasts don’t even have an eternal origin), they loose their attraction and become distorted and perverted.

For example, Christmas is no longer a joyful celebration of our Savior’s birth. It has been replaced as the “feast of the family” or, even worse, the “feast of giving gifts”, and an “orgy of consumerism”. The more man celebrates himself and his achievements (such as the mass celebrations which many communist and totalitarian regimes have put on each year), the more this becomes a mere flexing of muscle and less a real feast.

If a genuine feasting needs an eternal cause, we Christians should be the experts in celebrating, because we have more than enough reasons to celebrate. My personal conviction is that if Christians really learn to celebrate well, the people of this world will take notice and will want to learn from us how to celebrate the real feasts, such as Christmas. The world has lost the art of celebrating because it has lost the real cause for feasting.

In Next Month's Issue: Part II - How should we celebrate?

[Berhnard Stock, a gifted teacher and a founding leader of Brot des Lebens (Bread of Life Community) in Munich, Germany, is actively involved in community building work for the European region of the Sword of the Spirit.] 
 

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