I grew up in a big family, and we all lived in close proximity. We all genuinely enjoyed each other, too, so our holiday get togethers were naturally life-giving, high energy affairs. My Gramma Donna loved do life around a meal, and she and my mom and aunts would sit down after dinner at one family gathering to plan for the next…who would bring appetizers, fruit, dips, salads, breads, desserts. We were approximately twenty strong in total, with always enough food to feed at least twenty more.
Not one of us ever left a visit to Gramma’s empty, and our bellies were full, too.
Something I learned from watching our family over so many years was the value of showing up. For decades, everyone came to sit down together in one place, and multiple times a year. We didn’t just celebrate Christmas and Easter, but Thanksgiving and birthdays, anniversaries and summertime.
We gathered because we liked each other. Because family was important. Because Gramma glued us all together and it was a sweet, sweet space to enter again and again.
We didn’t have Pinterest growing up, and if we had, Gramma wouldn’t have needed it anyway. Her table was always simple and lovely, leaving room for an impromptu game of cards between meals, making it easy add a chair or swap a place at dinner time. Her heart was into the details, certainly, but she was practical, she used what she had, and she spent her energies focused on loving and feeding the people who sat with her–not on the table itself.
As such, everything about her called us to come to the table, no matter the visit. Oh, to steal away some of those hours again now, in the place that was always home to me no matter where I’d been or where I was headed next!
Gramma’s table was extraordinary because it welcomed. It was perfectly set, not with china and silver or handmade centerpieces, but by a woman who loved well and who was deeply loved in return.
We would always come back, because we couldn’t stay away.
Now, in my own house, four years removed from the last time I ever sat at Gramma’s table, I want so much for mine to look like hers–for Henry and Eloise to grow up knowing that our table is at the center of our home and of who we are. I want friends, new and old, to gather here and feel the deep sense of belonging I felt growing up around Gramma’s table. I want our space to be one of invitation and welcome, and I want that to be the case no matter how simply or elaborately I set the dining room for a meal.
Advent is a season of invitation for all people. Not just for those who believe that Christ came to earth as a baby, then suffered, died and rose again. For ALL people. If Christ could come down from heaven and take on flesh, then surely he can and wants to welcome strangers to His table.
I imagine, as we’re invited to partake in the celebration of Christmas as believers, that God is setting a table, preparing a feast for all of His children and then many more.
Isn’t this what grace is all about?
This season, as we turn our sights toward physical preparations for the celebration that is to come, let us also prepare our hearts as simply set tables–ones that welcome without condition, without presupposition, without inflexibility. In this graceful December, I pray that we would be able and willing to add one more chair, to adjust our mindsets as easily as our place settings, and to be people of invitation and welcome, not only at holiday meals, but in our souls as we seek to fully celebrate our Savior King.
saving a place for you here,