Soul Food Advent Blog Series 2018: 'Room at the Table'
Guest blogger: Jennifer Cornfield
There is always a sense of relief when I have wrapped and packaged and safely deposited into the post box this year’s Advent letters to my god children. I have been writing to them since they were baby’s each Advent, wanting to encourage them to know and to continually step into this story that leads us to Christmas time. Each year, we remember that the story of Christmas doesn’t begin when the Christmas lights are lit in our towns or the Christmas adverts begin on TV. Rather we remember that the story of Christmas began with the first words of Genesis, ‘In the beginning, God…’
With letters that we open each day, every year, we remind ourselves that we were created by a story telling God and that he invites us to be part of the story that is so much bigger than the one our present reality can begin to tell.
The stories we recollect in Advent lead us from a garden through thousands of years to a stable in Bethlehem. We take the long journey in the company of those who held the story unrelentingly close: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, Tamar and Rahab, Moses and Ruth, Jesse and David, Esther and Isaiah, Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah and John – to name just a few.
We tell each other that we, like them, are people of the story. We are the story carriers, the light bearers and just like the shepherds we use these precious days of Advent to travel to the cradle of the One who was born to be the hope of the world.
I write for me as much as them. I write, to encourage us to stay in this story. To hold it close.
Usually – inspired by the Canadian writer, Ann Voskamp – we build a Jesse Tree using sticks from the garden and each day we add a new decoration to it that will encapsulate the stories that we have read.
One year, along with the familiar Bible stories, we told the stories of individuals who have been light carriers in an often dark world: Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Maggie Gobran, Rosa Parks. We prayed too, that we might be light carriers like them.
Another year, we spent four weeks looking at and praying for all the countries around the world that people were having to flee from as refugees. We remembered that Jesus himself was a refugee and a homeless man. We spent time praying that we too would be people who would welcome others.
Last year, I sent a little Christmas tree to each child, one that could fit through a letterbox, along with a box filled with packages to open each day, each containing a promise that could be hung on the tree. By December 24th they each had a tree filled with promises – a Promise Tree.
God’s story has always been fundamentally a story of promises. The promise that we are not alone, that our help comes from the Lord. The promise of refuge and peace and the promise that one day all wars will cease and all tears will be wiped away. These promises are all held in the tensions of Advent. The tension of the story of hope, transformation and light, juxtaposed with the story of life lived in a world which can often feel dark and difficult.
In preparation for Advent this year, as I write this, I have popped into the post for each child, one card and one package containing a book. The book is one written by Bob Goff, called ‘Love Does’. I haven’t suggested making Jesse Trees and I haven’t written a letter to open each day. Rather, this year, we will read stories that will inspire us to love better and
to love wider. I will write to them about the tables each of our lives set, and of how each day we have the choice to include or exclude. We’ll remember that the kingdom of God has been described as a banquet to which everyone is welcome and of how Bob Goff writes , in his lovely book, that ‘one of our jobs in Jesus’ kingdom is to be hosts – to make people feel welcome when they come…we don’t get to make decisions about who is in and who is out. Instead we get to stand at the door, give hugs and remind everyone we greet, “You are welcome here.”
Jenny works in leadership positions at Soul Food Edinburgh and Mustard Seed Edinburgh. She is also a freelance charity consultant, working especially with organisations and churches in the areas of communication and public speaking.
Visit Jenny's blog: www.jennifercornfield.com