It was only a few decades ago when the majority of families gathered around to have dinner together, when members helped the mother with the food and when the family table was headed by the father of the house. This was the time of day when all work ceased and the family unit sat around sharing events of the past week, laughing, and discussing different topics and issues. Unfortunately, many families today have lost this important and therapeutic ceremony.
On December of 2009 I partook with the ArMiss Choir of Lebanon in the Christmas evening program organized by the Near East School of Theology that is located at one end of the surreal streets of Hamra. During the communion service something kept disturbing my soul. Dredging my heart I couldn’t understand the cause to my trouble. When the service was over we were all invited to join the Christmas dinner celebration around long decorated tables. There it hit me! The same people who were extremely serious and solemn and seriously glum and morose during the communion service were now all laughing, telling jokes, singing Christmas songs, sharing stories, and eating and drinking together merrily. The atmosphere was quite cheerful and life was pumping out of the very same dreary group.
Why is there this huge difference between communion service and dinner program? I personally cannot fathom the fact that Jesus and his disciples sat solemnly around a table in the upper-room and had a serious supper when wine – the sine qua non of festivals– was an important element of the event. Alas, they were having a feast together. This was the last supper Jesus had with his close friends that would linger on in the memories of everyone. They were the lucky ones to be part of century’s soul-enriching dinner when the room was filled with laughter and cups were raised with the son of the living God.
Abruptly, I jumped out of my seat and headed towards the table where Dr. Johnny Awad, a professor at the NEST, was sitting next to the guest of the Christmas program. Dr. Johnny Awad, a cheerful man with balding head, performed a spectacle during the communion service himself: instead of the usual reading from the Scriptures on Jesus’ birth, he read the same passage using his own words allowing us to envision the event through his diminutive eyes. It was quite unconventional, yet it garnered smiling faces and cherished the minds and hearts of the presence.
Dr. Johnny Awad, without more ado, understood where I was coming from. I explained to him about the striking contrast between the two services where we have made the communion service such a bleak and soulless event. The communion service is a time of joyful sharing by members of the church just like family members sit around the family table and share the blessings of the earth. It should be an opportunity for us to experience the sense of belonging to Christ’s family by “breaking bread” together proclaiming Christ as Lord?
Shouldn’t we bring life back to this vital service in the life of the church when people’s souls would meet and dance and where bread would be broken and wine poured not as an indulgence, but in remembrance of Jesus and his sacrifice for our dreadful sins?