Grace Calls for a Feast

Feast

Isaiah 25:6 “On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine–the best of meats and the finest of wines.”

When my wife and I got married, we fed dinner to over 150 people. When my children graduated from high school we fed 25 or 30 of our friends and family as well. My high school had an annual banquet to celebrate the academic and athletic accomplishments of the student body. Food is something we often use to celebrate milestones, achievements, and happy events. We have learned this from our God. When the Lord created a worship schedule for his Old Testament people, he created feast days. The Passover, the great celebration of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, was the “Passover Feast.” Later in the year they had the “Feast of Pentecost” to celebrate the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai, and the “Feast of Tabernacles” to remember their forty-year journey through the wilderness.

When God came to earth as a man, Jesus continued to show us that our Lord likes to celebrate with food. Jesus never got wild or out of control, but he was always open to attending a dinner party. He attended the wedding of his friends at Cana, a banquet with tax-collectors and sinners that Matthew threw in his honor, and even dinner at the homes of some of the Pharisees, who didn’t particularly like him. A few even accused him of being a drunkard and a glutton because he ate and drank so freely with people during his earthly ministry.

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that when the early Christians started to put together their worship schedule to celebrate the things Jesus did to save us, feasting was something they had in mind. Usually we simply call it Christmas when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. But the more formal name for this in the church calendar is “The Feast of the Nativity.” Sometimes even less significant events were thought of as “feasts.” Maybe you never thought about the meaning or significance of these words from a song you hear around Christmas: “Good King Wenceslaus went out, on the Feast of Stephen.” The day the church set aside to remember the first New Testament Christian to give his life for Jesus was described as a Feast day.

So the Lord is announcing a new feast here in Isaiah. It anticipates Jesus’ empty tomb. It celebrates God’s victory over death, and our resurrection from the dead. Isn’t that an unquestionably happy thought? And doesn’t this whole idea of feasting teach us something about the faith we believe? Somehow we Christians have managed to give people the idea that this faith is a sour, gloomy religion. The main thing about being Christian, we seem to communicate, is that we should feel bad about ourselves, and give things up, and not enjoy life very much.

It is true that God wants us to repent of our sins, and we have plenty of sins of which to repent. But the main thing about sin is that God forgives it! We are free, and he doesn’t ask us to pay a thing. I don’t deny that our Lord warns us not to cling too tightly to this world and the parts of it that give us pleasure. But it still pleases him when his children enjoy his gifts with thankful hearts. And as our senses fade and fail, and he takes away our ability to enjoy one thing or another, he does so only because he is going to give us better things, vastly better things, immeasurably better things, in the future home he has prepared for us. There is a happy tone, something to celebrate, in grace and heaven.

So get out the good china, splurge on your favorite delicacies, raise a glass in thankfulness for God’s saving love. A sour, gloomy life simply doesn’t fit.

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