WHAT WE WANT FOR PEOPLE: To experience the joy and reality of what Christmas is about: Jesus coming as a man to dwell among us. To ask ourselves, what does Christmas mean to me and hear stories from the Bible of how the birth of Jesus impacted people’s lives. For the hearts that are hopeless and the minds that are darkened to be filled with the simple hope and light that it is Jesus who comes to sit at the table with them and offer them the gospel.

Outcome: For our people to get a fresh revelation of the ministry of the table and their own Jesus story.

WEEK 1 OUTLINE:

In celebration of all the incredible stories we have heard over this year, we want to end our year in stories. Some people are waiting to tell their stories on the mic, most of us will never have a mic but we do have a table. A place to share our Christmas story of what Christmas means to us and to celebrate what the birth of Jesus did for us!

The Table is a place of connection, a place where we share a meal, a laugh, a story. Even though they didn’t have rectangle tables in those days, the meal was eaten seated with small tables or food on the floor, they were reclining on cushions or just sitting together on mats. Even the Last Supper table was a horseshoe shaped small table that they were seated and reclining at (John 13:23). But we are going to use the word “Table” to represent the meal in the Bible, and the Table was the spiritual life of the people in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments.

When Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.”

N.T. Wright

1. Jesus ministered at the Table–the spirit of hospitality

The Table makes us slow down in our fast-paced society, take note of those around us journeying with us, and it nourishes us physically and spiritually. It makes us listen to other journeys, hear their stories, learn from each other, and celebrate with each other.

Jesus ministered at the Table (meals) more than any other arena:

In Luke’s gospel Jesus is either going to a meal, at a meal, or is coming from a meal.

Robert Karris

The Table was a place of blessing (Feeding the Five Thousand Luke 9:10-17). The Table was a place of miracles (The Wedding at Cana John 2:1-12, Feeding the Five Thousand Matthew 14:13-21)
The Table was a place of forgiveness (Matthew/Levi Luke 5:29)
The Table was a place of restoration (Peter)
The Table was a place of hard conversations and correction (Pharisees Luke 7:36-50 and Luke 14)
The Table was a place of remembrance and training (Disciples the Last Supper Luke 21-22)
The Table was a place of healing and wisdom in discouragement (Road to Emmaus Luke 24:3—35).
The Table was a central part of the early Church discipleship (Acts 2:42-47)
The Table is our future hope (the Coming Feast in Isaiah 25:6 and Luke 14:7- 24).
Jesus ate with His disciples, family, friends, and enemies.

2. Table Fellowship was an in breaking of the Kingdom of God(Because of the gospel, because of Jesus, we have a seat at the table)

Eating was such a huge part of Jesus’ ministry that He had a reputation as a glutton and a drunkard:

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Matt 11:18–19)

Jesus came to serve (Mark 10:45), to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), as a ransom for many (Luke 7:34), that was His purpose. The statement above is the HOW – He came eating and drinking.

Tim Chester states “Jesus’ mission strategy was a long meal, stretching into the evening. He did evangelism and discipleship around a table over some grilled fish, a loaf of bread and a pitcher of wine.”

Deuteronomy 21:20 speaks of “glutton and drunkard” as a rebellious son that needs to be purged from evil and stoned to death. Jesus changed this: for Jesus the table of fellowship was a demonstration of the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is about acceptance of others, a place of forgiveness, and in Jesus ministry it was enacted at the Table.

“If table fellowship is a spiritual discipline that is vital for shaping and

sustaining our life with God for the world, we need to make a point to share

our tables with people who are in our lives but far from God. This was one of

the most distinctive aspects of Jesus’s ministry”

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In her book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, theologian Christine Pohl has observed

A shared meal is the activity most closely tied to the reality of God’s kingdom, just as it is the most basic expression of hospitality.

Christine Pohl

The Christmas Table displays the Kingdom, it celebrates Christ’s birth, it brings family and friends together, it is a place of forgiveness where pasts are washed away, it is a place of restoration where broken relationships are healed. It is a place of hope where we celebrate all that Jesus did through his birth and life.

3. Everyone is welcome at the table (Because of Jesus we create room for others to sit at the table)

The Christmas Table is where everyone is welcome, Jesus ate with tax collectors, Pharisees, enemies, friends and disciples. All were welcome to open and honest conversations, nurturing story telling moments, where Jesus taught, trained, healed, saved and set people free.

We want people to feel very welcome in our Church, especially in this Christmas season. We create room for others to sit at the table – the Pharisees got offended when Jesus entertained those that were normally unwelcome at their parties: sinners. Jesus was often chastised for inviting and welcoming anyone to eat with Him. (Luke 15;2, Matthew 9:9-13, Mark 2:13-17, Luke 5:27- 32, Luke 7:36-50).

He was a friend of sinners not to condone their sin but to welcome them in and eat with Him and have open conversation, sharing the gospel in parables so they could understand, and offending those who chose to keep this beautiful intimate act of communion to themselves.

4. It is a forerunner for the Great Feast of the Kingdom of God

When the Old Testament prophets wanted to speak of the day that God’s reign would be fully established on the earth, it was depicted in a great feast, where all people would eat the best meats and finest wines (Isaiah 25:6).

Jesus turning the water into wine at a wedding feast showed that that future hope had come with Jesus, as a promise that it will come for everyone at the end of days. We can feast and celebrate around the table until the day when we all get to celebrate the Kingdom come (Revelation 19:9). Christmas is a time of celebration for all Jesus did, His birth was a time of great celebration.

In his book, Life of the Church A Holy Meal: The Lord’s Supper and the Life of the Church

Eating was for Jesus a key means by which he proclaimed the coming of God’s reign and acted, or enacted, its arrival.

Gordon Smith

At our Christmas Table – All people are welcome to join the feast, all people are welcome and invited to the Table.

The Christmas Table:

We celebrate Jesus and all he did for us at our Christmas Tables, with family, friends we all have stories of what Jesus has done in our lives. For this Christmas campaign we want to focus on our Christmas Table Stories, the stories of healing, the stories of freedom, the stories of walking through pain, the stories of perseverance, the stories of revelation, all that Jesus is to us and has done through us. All because the greatest story of all time happened HIS STORY – God sent His Son Jesus to save us from sin, to redeem us and give us eternal life.

Connect Group Discussion Questions:
GATHER: 
(ensure that these questions centre around community!)

  • How has God used meals to draw you closer to Him or reveal Himself to you in the past?
  • Some people value informal meals with friends while others like to dress up and plan every detail. Share what is meaningful to you about sharing meals and what is most important at Christmas.

GROW: (ensure that these questions prompt discussion on personal growth and maturity)

  • What do you imagine the wedding feast of the Lamb as being like?
  • Who do you find it most difficult to include at your table? How does it change things to know all are welcome at Jesus’ table?
  • Are you prepared to let Jesus come to your table? Is your heart open this Christmas season to what He wants to tell you/teach you next?

GO: (ensure that these questions prompt discussion on going and spreading the good news)

  • Most connect groups make plans to meet for a meal during the holiday period. If your group is planning this, who could you invite to your table?
  • Is there someone you are inviting to Christmas at C3 SYD? Let your group know so that they can pray and support you by welcoming these new people.
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