Each year, on the second Sunday before Christmas, the Church commemorates the earthly ancestry of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ with special attention being given to the Patriarch Abraham to whom God first made His promise that he would be the father of many nations. The Gospel lesson for today is the Parable of the Heavenly Banquet to which we have all been invited. There is a beautiful image that comes to my mind when I think of a banquet, Christmas and ancestry…...FAMILY.
In Genesis 18.1-8, we hear about a day once when Abraham was resting under a tree along with his wife, and God promised Abraham that his wife Sarah would have a son. We know that son as Isaac. Abraham called his wife and offered God, Who had appeared as three angels, to sit and have a meal together. Again I see the beautiful image of FAMILY with husband and wife hearing of the coming of their son.
Throughout the Holy Scriptures we hear about encounters with God during a meal. The Wedding of Cana (John 2.1-11), Mary and Martha’s house (Luke 10.38-42), the Last Supper (Luke 22.14-23), and more all feature God and FAMILY. Even after the resurrection Christ had encounters with His disciples during meal (Luke 24.36-53). The encounters didn’t end with the Holy Scriptures.
Each Divine Liturgy the Lord invites us to sit with Him, as a FAMILY, for a banquet. Like every other encounter with God, we hear about His promise and love for us. We witness His grace in the lives of our brothers and sisters. Most importantly we receive His grace when we receive Holy Communion. When our Orthodox Christian FAMILY gathers in the Church, we are not alone. Our ancestors are together with us, as the icons on the walls remind us of the Saints. Some are even here physically with us through their Holy Relics.
Of course, like any family in history and today, our FAMILY has its struggles. We don’t always get along and cooperate. The Holy Scriptures are filled with those stories too, but with God as our Father and Church as our mother, no matter what struggle we encounter we learn that God will never abandon us. He will never cast us aside in the garbage dump. We are His children. We are brothers and sisters. We are FAMILY!