Communing with Christ at His Christmas Feast

The story of our salvation starts with forbidden fruit and ends with bread and wine at the Lord’s Table.

On a snowy day in downtown Chicago, as the first day of Advent drew near, I sat with my upper-class systematic theology students to discuss the meaning of the sacraments.

I opened my lecture with a simple question: “If forbidden fruit brought sin, can bread and wine bring redemption?”

At first, some of my students sat and scratched their heads. But over the course of our conversation, the class soon began to understand the theological dimensions of what we eat and drink in this life—and some of these insights are especially relevant to the season of Advent.

Advent, perhaps more poignantly than any other time in the liturgical calendar, reminds the church that it is in a pregnant pause. That is, we find ourselves suspended between the first and second Advents: Christ has died, Christ has risen—and Christ is yet to come again.

In the meantime, while we watch and wait for Christ’s return, we have been charged to partake in the Eucharist, or the sacrament of Communion. So during the Christmas season, we should eat and drink not only in remembrance of Christ’s birth but also in anticipation of his promised bodily return.

But not just any meal nor any table will do.

Whether your church uses bread or wafers, wine or juice—and whether you gather weekly, monthly, or quarterly—the Lord has called us all to gather at his table: the table he himself has set, where we might be fed by him and on him alone. For “whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

And yet there is more to this story.

In Ritualized Faith, Terence Cuneo evocatively states that “it is no accident that the Eucharistic prayers are replete …

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