Dining with royalty

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 14:16-24

As the Christmas feast approaches we begin to see aspects of this gospel reading come to life.  We watch as the people around us become very busy with preparations for the coming celebrations.  We have cookies to bake.  We have presents to buy.  We have decorations to hang.  We have pictures to take.

We know that the whole Christmas celebration revolves around Jesus Christ but for much for the world, this is just an afterthought.  At times even we forget about Christ in the midst of all the busyness of the holidays.  We sometimes forget about Christ in the midst of all the busyness of life in general.

Today’s reading is a reminder that not much has changed with human nature.  We are told that a man gave a great banquet and invited many.  We can understand this banquet in a number of ways but it is primarily an invitation to partake of the heavenly kingdom, to sit and dine with the King, Our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is an invitation to be a royal guest at the finest table ever set.

The words of Our Lord Jesus Christ remind us that many, many people were supposedly interested in the coming of the Messiah, but at the end of the day, those who were originally invited to the supper, were nowhere to be found when it actually mattered.  The whole nation of Israel was invited to partake of this feast.  They were invited from the moment that God called them into existence.  “Come and dine with Me and My beloved Son!”

During the past week the British royals, Prince William and Princess Kate have been travelling around the United States.  Let’s imagine that someone here was sent a royal invitation to a great dinner with the royals.  How would we respond?  I think that in most cases it would seem unthinkable to turn down such an invitation.  We would feel so honored, that we would probably go out of our way to make sure that we could make it to this feast.  We would much rather inconvenience ourselves than dare to miss this event.  We would gladly rearrange our schedules and cancel previous commitments with friends and family.  We would think about what kind of gift we could bring to the royal couple and if we couldn’t afford the perfect gift, we would sell off some other possessions in order to bring a wonderful and memorable present.  Would we dare to miss such an opportunity?  I don’t think so.

At the end of all of this.  After the perfect evening with the royals, what would we have to show for all of our efforts?  Not much, right?  Perhaps a nice picture to share on Facebook or to hang in our office.  Certainly we would have the memory of this event, but not much else.

What a gracious God it is who invites us to a truly royal meal!  He watches as we complain and create lists of other things we need to do.  He watches as we cast this invitation aside for anything and everything from the kids sports to the NFL pre-game show.  Through all of this the invitation stands, “Come and dine with Me and My Son!”

In the gospel, the man never forces anyone to the feast.  It is not his style.  It is beneath God’s dignity to beg.  In fact, if we knew the life God was offering to us, we would beg for Him.  Not only will God not beg, neither will He force us to attend against our free will.

But what about those who rearrange their schedules and their lives and their resources and their wills to attend this great feast?  Listen to the words of St. John the theologian “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” 1 John 3:2.   God will not only allow you the pleasure of dining with Him and with His Son.  He will allow you the pleasure of becoming part of this royal family!  The one who accepts the invitation to the feast doesn’t simply become an honorary member of God’s family, He becomes a partaker of godliness. St. John says “We shall be like Him.”  We become like God by gladly spending time in His presence and eating the meal that God has prepared for us.

Prince William and Princess Kate would receive gifts because you would be honored to meet them.  But God doesn’t need our gifts.  Instead, He honors us with gifts for merely accepting His invitation!  We offer our hearts and He offers Himself!

It is said that at some point the Emperor Constantine sent a letter to the monks in the Egyptian desert and while all the monks received this letter with great joy and enthusiasm, St. Anthony the great ignored it and reminded the monks that the Scriptures were God’s love letter to humanity.  He had a heavenly perspective and was past earthly distractions.

As the Christmas feast approaches, where is my heart?  Where are my priorities?  What have I done with the invitation that Our Lord has handed me?  I have prepared for Christmas, but have I prepared for Christ?

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