Nourishing is the Reason for the Season.

Misc. / December 24, 2018

Or, My Holiday Ode to Feeding the Spirit of Christmas!

Christmas is officially upon us. Only one more sleep and it will be gone. And when it has passed — taking place during a moment so short that it hardly seems real — we will have cut quite a culinary swath across the landscape. We may well have cooked dozens and dozens of cookies, roasted many roasts, steamed many vegetables, sipped with abandon, and discreetly discarded many fruitcakes. Our kitchens will be glowing with activity, and we will be worn out.

And yet we still want more. The pages of social media are bursting at the margins with new ideas for holiday food. We seem to literally feed on the time-lapse videos for every imaginable edible. And we don’t seem to care much if it is real, or possible, or even tasty. It is just fun to watch and follow food. For every person who collapses on a sofa after doing dishes the millionth time, there are 10 more who say, “…let’s make that Yule Log recipe we got from Cousin Rita!” And once again the mixer is pulled ceremoniously forward, and the preheat button is pushed.

My question is, are we processing the idea of food in a normal context? Or are we just committed to running through the maze of prep, eat, share, clean and start over again without thinking? Do we understand how the act of feeding ourselves and others is actually grander in scale than even the crooning voice of Bing singing White Christmas when it comes to the Reason for the Season?

Christmas is Christian. Jesus is the reason. And nourishment is most definitely a proving ground for most Christian beliefs. But Judaism, Hinduism, and many other religions connect food with edifying our spirit as well, proving that something on a plate is truly parallel to our spiritual celebrations.

2 Corinthians 5:17, as shared in the King James Version states that, “…therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” This passage is a ravishing and exceptional illustration that must not be ignored. And one interpretation, mine, is that it is a metaphor for what our bodies do as we feed them. Cells divide and change, grow, and we are literally “new creatures” in food, just as we can be new in the Spirit.

Hasidic Judaism teaches, according to Wikipedia, that ‘everyday life is imbued with channels connecting with Divinity, the activation of which it sees as helping the Divine Presence to be drawn into the physical world. Hasidism argues that the food laws are related to the way such channels, termed sparks of holiness, interact with various animals. These sparks of Holiness are released whenever a Jew manipulates any object for a holy reason (which includes eating).’

Wouldn’t both of these interpretations suggest we are remade constantly? And wouldn’t the most logical of these be through what we put in our bodies? Would that not be the quickest way to elevate our creaturely-ness into holiness since we all experience the desire for food all throughout the day?

John 6:35 states:  “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” Matthew 5:6 states that, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Perhaps, then, is the accelerated focus of cooking during Christmas a natural instinct we respond to? A need to expand our understanding, and increase our nearness to God?

I have often written about the fact that I believe true peace will take place around a dinner table. I postulate that the act of filling ourselves and enjoying the sensory explosion of tasting, and sharing, and sating binds us in a deep spiritual way that is undeniable and causes in us a desire to be new creatures. We see the good in others and ourselves, we are moved to care about what happens to us all as a species, and maybe even as children of God, if that is your belief. Even the sitting position is one of non-aggression, resembling in earnest our posture when praying on our knees. We lean perilously over a plate, out of balance, focusing all our muscles on bringing one bite up to open mouths to savor. While we cannot truly say that all eating is holy, I think we can safely say that holiness includes eating.

As I conclude my ode to nourishing the Noel, I have one other idea to share. I am wondering. Could it be possible that the Christian cross could just as easily be set next to a fork in terms of significance? When we are “filled, and no longer hungry” will the plate, knife and spoon perish from our lives or become the center of our worship? Will breaking plates become heresy? Why, who knew a stuffed mushroom could become hallowed. But then, why wouldn’t it be?

So, before Christmas is over. Take a moment and breathe reverence and hope into your holiday meal. Stop rushing through it. Meditate upon the exquisite beauty of a cranberry popping in a pan. And then take the hand of someone you love and place something yummy before them. There is no other gift more perfect.

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