Have you ever considered making an extra place setting at the Christmas dinner table? What about placing hay underneath the white table cloth? I have to admit a simple idea I had turned into a dramatic revelation – Jesus is left out.
This year my husband and I decided to have a Russian Orthodox Christmas dinner at our home for a dear friend at our church who was adopted at the age of 2 years old from Russia. I felt led to give her a taste of her home country and so I set out to change the menu a little bit (after all, following Thanksgiving who wants a new menu other than turkey or ham?) and perhaps include a prayer or something. I had no idea what this planning would teach me.
I wonder how many of us have looked into Christmas traditions of other countries. Christians from around the world can teach us a lot about really “keeping Christ in Christmas”.
I set out to research, learn, and teach myself as much about a Russian Christmas tradition as I could and during the process my eyes began to open. One of the first things that stuck out to me is the fact they use a white table cloth and place hay under the table cloth. The hay is to symbolize the manger Jesus was in when he was born. The white table cloth represents the swaddling clothes he was wrapped in by his mother. But, one of the most humbling traditions they have that we will do for the first time in our home this year is an extra place setting at the Christmas dinner table. The extra plate is for Jesus. For some homes, it is also for an stranger that may appear at the door of the family on Christmas Day who is hungry or in need because Christmas is a day to include everyone and to show the love of Christ to everyone. But, more importantly, they make large efforts to ensure Jesus is included in the meal. After all, it makes sense to me since it’s his birthday. Imagine people holding a large feast in honor of your birthday and not inviting you. I think, sadly, many of our homes can use a lesson the extra place setting teaches us. Most of us have become consumed with baking, cooking, wrapping, and planning that Jesus is just left out.
Isn’t that always the case? We set out to teach someone something or do something nice for someone only to find that we are the ones receiving the lesson. Perhaps we need to pray and ask God to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, open our eyes to see Jesus, and open our lives to others this Christmas season.