by Christine Sine
I am in the midst of an orgy of Christmas baking so that I can entertain friends lavishly and have enough to send packages to friends and family. I already made two batches of shortbread, and Melissa Nagy’s delicious lemon bars. On Saturday the delicious aroma of my fruit cake permeated the kitchen as I mixed together the ingredients that have soaked for 4 weeks in preparation for the day. Next will be Lesly Earp’s Fresh Lemon Loaf and Emily Huff’s Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies which both sound as though they will travel well in packages. My cheese ball with pesto and dried tomato will not be far behind. All of these come from the Godspacelight Community Cookbook, though I must confess I snuck in another couple of favourites from other sources – a pecan slice from my Australian Womens’ Weekly Cookbook and Chocolate Ginger cookies that I discovered in the AARP magazine. This kind of baking is very relaxing for me, and it is a joy for me to prepare for hospitality in this way.
Baking is always an activity filled with joy for me so fitting for this third weekend of Advent. Yesterday was the third Sunday of traditional Advent and we lit the pink Joy candle at church. It is pink because rose is a liturgical color for joy. The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday and is meant to remind us of the joy that the world experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as the joy that the faithful have reached the midpoint of Advent.
As I baked over the weekend I reflected on the joy of the season and what it means to me. I imagined Mary and Joseph journeying towards Bethlehem, her heavily pregnant, him a concerned and anxious father to be, probably filled with a mixture of joy at seeing family and anxiety as to what kind of reception they might receive. I am sure those emotions travelled with others heading home for the Census too. There was probably a lot of resentment at the journey that was forced upon them, a dangerous journey too. Ninety miles of travel through country infested with wild beasts and bandits. However I suspect there was also a lot of joy. Maybe they all sat around campfires at night telling stories. Perhaps Mary and Joseph got to share their own story of angelic visitors and unexpected pregnancies. Did the other mothers in the caravan embrace Mary and share tips on how best to prepare for the birth? Or were they ostracized because Mary conceived out of wedlock and in the minds of some should have been stoned? Then they arrive in Bethlehem. What kind of reception did they receive from family and friends?
This third week of Advent and its emphasis on joy always revolves around hospitality for me. My own extension of hospitality through baking, but also through giving and reaching out to others not as fortunate as myself. That I see as the crux of the Advent story. And I wonder about the hospitality or lack there of extended towards Mary and Joseph. Was Jesus born in a stable, or as I think more likely, born in a home and welcomed hospitably by Joseph’s family? In a previous post Stable or Home and Why Does it Matter? I commented:
The question is, “To where will we welcome him?” Do we really want him moving into our homes or is easier to relegate him to the stable, to see him as an outsider, not really part of the family? Seeing Jesus in an out-of-the-way place where disreputable people like shepherds can come to worship without us having to worry about them messing up our homes makes life easy for us. We get that glow that tells us Jesus is here, but there is very little commitment required of us.
As we journey through this third week of Advent consider where you find joy and where you extend joy to others. Who do you exclude from your circle of joyful welcome? Our world seems to specialize in marginalized people like the shepherds and the Magi. There are so many opportunities for us to extend hospitality to strangers and the unacceptable. Who are you willing to invite into your home to share the joyous good news of Jesus coming?