By now I am sure your preparations for the celebration of the feast of the Nativity are in full swing -- if not you better get busy! The invitations have been sent, the food has been planned, the seating has all been arranged, the house is all decorated and everything is almost ready. Perhaps you invited friends and family with a simple phone call or an email to come to your house for a party to celebrate the season or maybe the invitations were more formal. Either way the message is simple: come, come and celebrate with us.
Two Sundays before Christmas we read from the 14th Chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke. In this Gospel pericope we read the story of the Great Banquet that had been made ready. They sent out word that all was ready and it was time for the guests to come. But people sent word back that they had things to do and were too busy to come to the banquet. So the host sent his servant out into the streets to invite all who passed by to come and enjoy the feast. When this was done, the servant reported that there was still room at the banquet so the host sent the servant back out to compel people to come and enjoy the feast. Now we are uncertain how well this worked but the passage informs us that the host was upset that no one was coming to his party.
The Gospel is an invitation for us to come, to come and enjoy what the Lord has done for us. He does not command that we come but gives us a gentle invitation that we have to act upon. We have to accept that invitation and we have to come. When Jesus called His first Apostles He did so with the simple invitation to "come and see." No command, no come and do as I say, but just the invitation to come.
"Come; for all now is ready." Come all of you who seek meaning in life. Come all you who hunger and thirst. Come all of you who are poor in spirit. Come all of you who weep and mourn. Come all of you who are broken and in need of healing. Come all of you who seek peace. Come for all has been made ready.
It is no secret that Orthodox liturgies can be rather long and involved and the liturgy for Christmas is no exception. I was once asked if I could trim down or streamline the liturgy so we could get to our parties on time and, of course, my response was no, not really. That was met with the response "but Christmas is about family." To which I responded, "you're right, the Holy Family!" Come for all has been prepared. Come and worship the child who became human for you and so you might enjoy the eternal banquet.
All too often we have a ton of excuses like the people in the Gospel story. Well, I am not sure how many of you have recently purchased five yoke of oxen, but we can find more excuses to not "come" then the people in the story. Sunday has become just another day of the week. Sorry Father, I cannot come to church on Sunday because my son or daughter plays on a sports team and they have a practice on Sunday. Sorry Father, I cannot come to church on Sunday because there is a sale that I just have to go to.
The great tragedy in life today is we accept the wrong invitations in life and therefore we miss the banquet that has been prepared for us. We miss the eternal banquet that gives us life in Jesus Christ and we settle, we settle for the lesser things in this life, the things that will pass away in an instant, the things that are fleeting rather than the eternal.
Sometimes we feel that we are not worthy to accept the invitation and we would be right - none of us are worthy but the invitation still goes out. Come, all you who are weary. It does not matter how you dress for none of that matters, the invitation is made to those on the back streets as well as those on front street. Come, for all is ready.
Coming to Jesus is more than just something that is done on Sunday. It has to be a way of life. Acceptance of this invitation requires a daily commitment - repentance, obedience, worship, prayer, Bible reading. It involves a daily walk with Jesus and yes, just as you make time for all of life's stuff, you have to make room for Him in your life.
"Come; for all is now ready." Don't wait, do it now!