At some point this season it occurred to me that something is missing from the Biblical Christmas story.
“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)
And then the shepherds came to visit. Methinks the story misses a key element.
Surely, they ate.
I picture the regret on the innkeeper’s face as he turned them away, feeling sorry despite his practiced indifference. I picture his wife behind the counter, imploring her husband to find some space for the bedraggled young couple.
I picture her then moving away from the exchange and heading to her kitchen, assembling a meal to take out to the barn. Meaty stew or thin soup; fresh figs or dried apricots; leftover crusts of the morning’s bread. Something to welcome the road-weary, anxious pair. I bet she sent a son or daughter to the tiny shop next door for bread or tea or dried lentils.
(I also picture her boiling some water and calling the local midwife. But that’s another story.)
I feel sure that someone brought food to the new parents, tucked away in the barn behind the busy inn. And I feel sure that everyone was grateful–Joseph and Mary for the hospitality, the others for the chance to share their daily bread with strangers in need.
A shared meal is a powerful thing. This Christmas, I feel very fortunate to be sitting down to meals with both biological and chosen family, creating new meal traditions and celebrating old ones. With each meal, we play out the age-old story of the shared table, creating a community in that moment. I am blessed.