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Volume 17, Issue 2: Femina

Sabbath Feasting

Nancy Wilson

Sabbath dinner is a tradition at our house, but it hasn't always been that way. Shortly after our first-born was married, we thought it would be nice to get together to kick off the Lord's Day, and there were just six of us, including our new son-in-law.

Though I would love to take credit for such a great idea as the Sabbath dinner, it was really Doug and Paula Jones who set the example for us. (Over the years they have quietly led by example in many such things.) When we began to gather each Saturday night, we really had no idea what a great blessing this meal was going to become for us all. We had just moved into a new house, our daughter had just gotten married, we had a new table, and it was the perfect time to begin what was to us a very new concept of a weekly feast to celebrate the arrival of the Lord's Day.
One of the novel things about our newly established dinner was the presence of wine. I remember standing in the grocery store with no idea where to begin. What should I serve with what? One of those weeks I bumped into a friend with a whole lot more wine savvy than I had. Knowing that we were new at this, he pointed me to an (inexpensive) sparkling wine that would not be too scary for us. I even had to invest in some wine glasses for the first time.
That was eight years ago now, which isn't very long at all, and our Sabbath dinner has changed quite a bit. The most noticeable change is the number crowded around our new and bigger table. Not only has the adult population in the family grown to eight, but the little people outnumber us. With the increase of numbers has come the development of a liturgy, and I'm sure that will change as the children grow older. When we visit friends' homes, we often come away with ideas to incorporate into our dinner. Dave and Kim Hatcher sprinkle wrapped chocolates down the center of their table, and they play a story game between dinner and dessert that involves their kids. They also have a great way of teaching the children to wait for the hostess to take the first bite of dessert: if one of the children jumps in before the hostess, they pass that child's dessert around the table and everyone gets to take a bite! Steve and Jeannie Schlissel have a lovely way of welcoming everyone to their table that we have gratefully imitated. Doug and Paula gave us the idea of having a liturgy to follow each week.
I have talked with many young mothers about how to get their Sabbath dinner going. One of the first things I try to do is dispel some myths about it. At our house it is not Thanksgiving dinner every week with a turkey and all the trimmings. No way! Of course I try to make a meal that is a cut above the daily dinners. But it is not the same as an Easter or Christmas dinner where I pull out all the stops. The point is to start with what is doable, not the impossible. My children are grown, so I am not cooking with five little ones underfoot. Sabbath dinner ought to grow as your family does. Start small and work your way up. As your children get older, and you have more help in the kitchen, you may be able to do more. The point is to celebrate the coming Lord's Day together in a festive manner around your table, week after week, all year long. If you start by using all your china, crystal, and fine linens, you may burn out after two weeks and give up. Ease in slowly.
Because my kids were college age when we started, I could pretty much do what I wanted. I had lots of help with the clean up, and it was pretty simple. But as we've added high chairs and boosters, I have adjusted things accordingly. The college girls who live with us help in many ways. I have little wine glasses for the little people, lots of bibs, and most always lots of rolls and honey butter. Dinners usually involve a big piece of meat coming out of the oven, but not always. It might be pasta or shish-kabobs, and in the summer we eat outside as often as we can.
During the school year I am cooking for twelve adults and six kids plus whatever company we have picked up, and it can reach (as it did last week) up to twenty-two adults. When that happens, the guests often help by bringing food or wine. The point in telling you all this is not to get you to do what we do, but rather to encourage you just to begin. Your family will shape your Sabbath dinner into a unique weekly family feast. The point is to celebrate before the Lord around the table, knowing that He is preparing a table for all of us where He will be seated at the head. We are simply practicing each week, preparing for the day when we will sit down with Him.
Your preparations for Sabbath dinner will be some of the most important work you do all week. And because it is so important, you expect it to be peppered with temptations. So pray ahead of time, don't be easily offended (or petty!) and "do it unto the Lord," asking Him to bless all your efforts by making your family look forward to it all week.
As the years go by, you will get better at feasting around your table. Your children and grandchildren will see the beauty of holiness more and more and taste the goodness of the Lord.

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