My four-year-old is a fantastic party-thrower. When inspiration strikes her heart, coasters become plates, napkins unfurl to cover a coffee table, and piles of play food appear in various containers which may or may not have been originally intended for food.
This set-up sometimes grows more elaborate, with pillows (or furniture) moving about to accommodate the party-goers for her tea party—or birthday party—or Christmas feast. And, does she ever invite her guests: snowmen, Barbie dolls, cows, cats, or Cookie Monster. She does not discriminate. And, when she’s run out of available babies (aka “dolls”) and stuffies (aka “stuffed animals”), she goes even further afield: she invites Mom and Dad…and maybe her baby brother (aka Godzilla).
My daughter has a gift for calling us to the table to celebrate. It’s hard to refuse her—even if we’re feeling somewhat frantic about work, even if it’s close to bedtime, even if we don’t totally feel like sitting on the floor while her stuffed kitty has the comfy pillow. We try to enter into her joy—because it feels wrong not to. It feels like we’d be missing an important opportunity—not just for her play and creativity, but for our relationship with our beloved little one who calls us to come, for everything is ready.
In our liturgical year, we just began the Gospel of Luke—which recounts some of the great banquet parables. In these images, like Luke 14, the party planned is just as elaborate as our daughter’s tea parties with mismatched Tupperware, and is prepared with a similar, unbridled joy. But in the parable—the guests aren’t as gracious. They are too busy, think it’s too late, or have too many excuses not to step out of their cornered, claustrophobic worlds. They choose not to enter into the joyful delight which is the invitation of the Living God. And so the master announces to the servant: “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full” (Luke 14:23).
We are a hair’s breadth away from being those same, ungracious guests every time we are tempted to ignore kindness, joy, and creative love calling us to the feast. Maybe we can only stay for a few moments—maybe we need to promise to leave the set-up for the morning so play can begin again. But, taking those moments to be in relationship with a little one who loves us, reminds us that we are designed for love. We are the little ones of God, after all—and how God’s heart must hurt when we ignore the invitation to the feast. There’s a reason that the one seated at the table turns to Jesus and says: “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (Luke 14:15).
May you have a blessed Christmas season, and a much-needed New Year.