I sit at Christmas dinner on one end of an oval oak table, pulled out to full extension and crammed with 12 chairs and stools, each one loaded up with a person. Seven children are enjoying bubbly grape juice and red plastic plates at a table in the kitchen. One of them yells, "I spilled my juice, can I have more?" An adult, not particularly a parent, goes to do the refill.
A six pack of New Zealand champagne beer sits half empty on the table between candles and cranberry dressing from a can. Everyone is wearing a paper hat from their party popper. The fashion merchandiser and Polynesian mother of two are blowing on whistles retrieved from the same poppers. The young psychiatrist swings a small plastic bell that has remarkable twang. The African-American hairstylist laughs loudly as she is coaxed into extra gravy. A small bowling game is unfolding between two colorful plates. Everyone is full and contemplating seconds.
Everyone sighs with contentment as jokes bounce around the table. Puns abound. Not too much sarcasm. Darkness tries to force itself in through the windows but the candles and lights smash it to bits. I hear the kids whooping with laughter. There might be music on, but the real music is voices.
It strikes me that this is the very table I used to set when Rachel was a little girl and we lived in western Canada. Of course she does things a little different than I did, but there is strong continuity. I have passed on generosity, hospitality and joy of life to my girl. I also passed the table and chairs. It's all part of the package.
I am drawn as if into a vision and I see a multitude of faces that have been seated around this singular board. Laughter, tears, spills, tales, prayers and plain good food shared back and forth. I see soft old hands resting on the curved edges, chairs tipped back to give room for belly laughs, feet shuffling back from the table with utter contentment. All the weary cleanup.
Sitting at that old table is one of my best Christmas moments - backing out of the immediate moment and glimpsing what time and the Spirit has given to me, to us, and to our world.