December is a unique month. For children this means a school break and sleeping in, Christmas programs and performances…and let’s not forget PRESENTS! For adults, however, it’s a half-and-half split between major stress and somewhat enjoyment. For some, it may even be a time of deep sadness as they mourn the loss of a loved one; others, however, may feel on “top of their game” with their schedules filled to the brim.
This time of year usually carries a lot of hustle and cultural pressure. Things need to be prepared a certain way…lights, food, decorations…which reminds me of a very special gathering: the Last Supper of Jesus and his disciples (Luke 22:7-34). Let’s not forget that this also was during the holidays – imagine how chaotic it must have been!
The Last Supper opens as Peter and John are sent on an errand. Jesus gives them specific details of where to go and who to find and even what to say to that person. (Side note: the specificity of his words are so relatable to me now, as they capture exactly how I interact with my teenagers today! 😳)
Jesus sent Peter and John ahead and said, “Go and prepare the Passover meal, so we can eat it together…As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” They went off to the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there. (Luke 22:8-13)
Jesus literally explained every turn, even predicting the very words of the conversation they were to have; and surprisingly, they found the place already prepared for them!
Just imagine this particular Passover dinner: To everyone it looked like any other tradition they would share together, yet Jesus knew this one would fulfill the prophecies and prepare the disciples for what was about to happen:
When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. (Luke 22:14-15)
The word “eager” catches me off guard. Jesus’ immense intentionality, love, and patience throughout this whole event is incredible. This meal is recorded in all four gospels, and I find it interesting to read it from the different points of view (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22: 1-38, and John 13-17). In each one you will notice a few things taking place at the dinner table:
- unusual behavior (washing of feet),
- arguing (about who’s better),
- prophecy (predicting the betrayal),
- confusion regarding what Jesus is talking about (they nudged John to explain),
- betrayal (Judas leaving early),
- going out as a group and having a good heart-to-heart talk (warning of Peter).
This sums up some of my family gatherings over the years! It’s often loud, marked by bizarre behavior with some controversial conversations peppered in. Eventually a child gets hurt, there are some good heart-to hearts, and yes, we even have people bow out early because they’re maxed out on “everything”. I’m sure you can relate.
Yet this is the kind of mess and chaos Jesus likes to be invited into! And he commands us to remember him during it. Our houses or families don’t have to be “media perfect”; we just need to be open to his presence and receptive to everything he has to offer!
Ever since I started my own family, I was given very wise advice by my mentor: to start my own family traditions. As a child, I used to prepare a place for Jesus at the table, and I still do, but now I also get the house extra decorated with balloons and make a birthday cake for him. My kids love Christmas morning because we celebrate Jesus – his birth, life, death, and resurrection! We feast and talk about the past year and how he’s been with us, and then we sing to him. For a moment everything stops, and we feel like royalty, honoring the King of Kings, Prince of Peace, and Everlasting Father. We break bread and drink some juice to remember him (1 Corinthians 11:26), and we end by singing a hearty Happy Birthday where everyone gets to blow out candles and open presents.
I love how my holiday traditions have changed over the years. Now it’s more about cultivating a servant heart than making sure I have a Pinterest-perfect twelve course meal prepared (which, by the way, is a Polish tradition). A goal like this always ushers in yelling and stress as I order everyone around, which leaves me more exhausted, drained, and disappointed than when I first started! That’s why I love that now my traditions are more about love, peace, and hope. I can testify that my heart (and my family) are much happier for it. We open presents after we’ve made space for him, and that is enough.
So now I’d love to give you permission to change. Think about how you and your family prepare him room. What traditions point to Jesus? How would you like to honor him this season? If you need to make a change, do it! It’s never too late.
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have PEACE with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” (Romans 5:1)
Kasha Jankowski is a mom to two bigs and two littles and is originally from Poland and speaks three languages! She enjoys cultural diversity, food and music, and is even more passionate about loving God and loving people.