Order of Friars Minor Franciscans of Canada

Advent 4: Gathered at Table

Advent 4: Gathered at Table

 

As Advent very quickly slips into Christmas the thought of gathering at table has been on my mind. I’m sure over the past month we have all gathered at several tables of all shapes and sizes to celebrate the season and will continue to do so over the weeks ahead. The idea of sitting at table came to mind as I thought of people and places that will not know the joy of Christmas this year. It also settled deep in my heart this week as I heard news of the sudden death of my cousin Bradley. Bradley’s death reminded me the importance of gathering at table, cherishing conversations, going beyond our comfort zones, celebrating life and being aware that we are bearers of light. Bradley will be missed by many people however his kindness, his laughter and his joy will linger and remind me that Christ is with us in our sorrows, in our joys, in what seems like darkness and what is His light. I am grateful for the gift of Bradley’s life and the invitation to the Table of Life that he now enjoys in fullness. My attention is again drawn to the festive tables both you and I will gather at in the days to come.

As we gather to feast and celebrate the Christ Child, I want to draw your attention to the empty chair at the table. It’s there, can you see it? Not the one left to the side but rather the one right there next to our loved one, or neighbour or relative. Take a look at that chair and see it not as empty rather as a reminder that our feast is incomplete. Take a look at that chair and see it not as empty rather as an invitation. Take a look at that chair and see it not as empty rather as a conversation waiting to lead us into the New Year.

The chair is not empty, and several cultures traditionally leave a chair and place setting empty at the Christmas Feast to remind them of the Christ Child among us.

So do not see that chair as empty rather see someone sitting there that will not have a feast to share in reminding us our feast is incomplete. Is that a family from the Holy Land? Is that a family from the fire wiped out parts of California? Is that a family from the Hurricane ravaged parts of our world?

Or maybe see someone whose feasting is now a reward. Is it a loved one who has died and we miss? Or is it someone who died from senseless violence? Maybe it is someone who was killed in a tragedy this past year (the train derailment, school bus and tourist bus crash, ferry sinking of recent weeks come to mind)?


The chair is not empty, and several cultures traditionally leave a chair and place setting empty at the Christmas Feast to remind them of the Christ Child among us.


So do not see the chair as empty rather see someone who needs an invitation to join in the feast. Is that a family dealing with trauma? Is that a family in sorrow? Is that a refugee new to our country? Is that brother or sister from another religion who has faced persecution and hatred?


Or maybe it is someone from that list of ours. That neighbour we have been avoiding? That friend whom we last spoke angry words to? That relative who has been on the fringes?


The chair is not empty, and several cultures traditionally leave a chair and place setting empty at the Christmas Feast to remind them of the Christ Child among us.


So do not see the chair as empty rather see someone who is inviting us to conversation. Is that the young Mexican journalist killed at his child’s Christmas concert and we discuss freedom of speech and persecution? Is it a child from Myanmar and we discuss safety and human rights? Is it a teenager from Syria and we discuss power and powerlessness?


Or maybe it is a conversation that we dance around and it’s time to make it concrete. Is it about how we as a family will reach out to our community and our global family? Is it about organ donation? Is it about gratitude and how we can show it more? Is it about living with less and being more aware of our choices?


I will sit at several tables over the next few weeks and I will enjoy good food and good people and I hope I will see that empty chair and see the Babe from Bethlehem there among us. The Babe from Bethlehem who reminds us that he is indeed among us always and that the chair is not empty. The choice is mine. The choice is yours. Do we choose Christ as Advent ends, as Christmas draws near and the New Year dawns? Who will sit at our table this Christmas time?

 

Christ Child Come,
Oh Babe from Bethlehem Come
Dwell among us and sit among us.
Lead us to your crib,
May we courageous take you in our arms,
Receive you humbly and gratefully,
Carry your cross with hope, with peace and with joy.
Come to our feast O Child of God,
for we know that we are always welcome at Your Feast,
Come O Come Emmanuel, do not delay.