It's Tasty Tuesday & Tempt My Tummy Tuesday and I am, honestly, behind in my Christmas baking. Sigh. Not that I haven't baked anything or made any of our favorite holiday dishes (sweet potato pie, Christmas salad, mashed potato casserole, yule log ... ), but we've eaten everything I've made so far. Nothing to show for it but a leftover piece of yule that I froze and hid in the freezer. ;)
Today I thought I'd just reflect on "the Table." The Table itself is so important, as well as how intentional we are about what happens around it. The food is a delicious excuse to gather 'round with loved ones and guests.
Before the Meal ...
How we set the table says so much about how we value those who will sit around it. You don't have to have expensive items to use, but use your best. I like to focus on a colorful table with enough unique items to say "this is special," but not get in the way or make guests uncomfortable. I don't use anything that I care about breaking or spoiling. When our kids were toddlers, one knocked an antique crystal goblet of juice over onto an inherited European linen tablecloth ... I was mortified! Our hostess, though, just jumped up and tossed another "old" linen over the puddle and said it was NO problem, just enjoy the meal. It was very clear that nothing on the elegant table meant more to her than the guests seated around it. That's hospitality.
I also like to put something at each place that says, "I prepared for YOU." This may be an ornament, a place card (we love homemade), a verse, a small gift, or candy I know they love. Arriving at the table should be a moment that declares to family and guests, "You are loved here." I used paper and ribbon I had on hand to make this simple napkin holder. There are so many ways to use what you have to say, "We looked forward to this!"
During the Meal ...
I like to keep in mind several things that help guests enjoy their time at our table.
- Offering to refill a drink before they have to ask says, "We want to serve you." My kids are now at a great age to do this.
- Beginning with a prayer of blessing over those present and those absent says, "It means a lot to us to have you with our family."
- Clearing dirty dishes once everyone is done says, "Stay and linger over sweet conversation."
- As a hostess, we show hospitality when we are mindful that all guests are included in the conversation. This might mean we stretch the scope of conversation, ranging from sports to recipes to daycare to health to God's sweet Word. We are the ribbon that ties all the guests together around the table and invites them to share themselves. Participate, but resist the temptation to dominate ... even if it's awkwardly quiet. ;)
Romans 12:13b "Practice hospitality."
After the Meal ...
Every now and then we like to stay at the table for a long time, but it's usually best to move to a more comfy spot. If there are children, they will love you for offering permission and a suggestion to go have some fun. Adults will love you for the quiet you give them, along with a cup of tea or coffee and a dessert that doesn't have to cost a lot but can look like it. Amazing what a little drizzle of chocolate, sprinkle of confectioner's sugar, or candy jimmies can do for a plain jane piece of cake or cookie. I served woefully plain looking shortbread cookies last night for dessert, but with a little chocolate drizzled on top, they were "gourmet!"
Before guests leave from a meal with us, we like to have them sign our guest book. I hope it makes them feel like having them in our home was a special occasion for us and for them, one that opens the door to be like family.
In the next few days, we will gather around a table somewhere. It may be yours or you may be the guest, but I hope that before, during, and after the meal we will be a blessing of hospitality to those seated with us. You've probably already thought about the food, but what are your plans for the Christmas Table?