Paul Kelly’s 1996 hit, How to Make Gravy, is not your typical Christmas song. Yet, for many people whose Christmas will be tinged with sadness, the bittersweet message of the song will resonate.
The protagonist in Kelly’s song faces spending Christmas in jail, missing his family and traditions. He laments not being able to kiss his children or to partake in the post-Christmas lunch ritual of dancing with his wife. And he wonders — who will take his role of making the gravy?
I’m not sure if you feel the same, but as I make plans for Christmas, I often have this secret hope that all my loved ones will be gathered around the table in peaceful harmony. But that’s never the reality. Often, it’s just not possible for all family members to be in the one place at the one time. And, as I do a mental count of who is going to make it, I become aware of their personal worries, anxieties and — dare I say it — idiosyncrasies that will add to the dynamic of the day!
So, why is it that on this day we like things to be perfect? Is it because we have seen too much glossy junk mail displaying “happy” families immaculately dressed, gathered around an equally immaculate dining table laden with matching serviettes and bon bons? Maybe. But this might be a tad cynical. I think, for many people, the beauty and traditions of Christmas stir something inside them; that something might simply be the desire for peace and good will among all their loved ones.
Such a desire is surely a key message of Christmas. At the birth of Jesus — the very reason for Christmas — even the angels gathered to celebrate. In the Scriptures we read they praised God, saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those whom he favours” (Luke 2:14). And even though the baby Jesus was perfect, the stable where he was born and the feeding trough he was placed in paint a less-than-perfect first Christmas day.
And so, as I sit down to Christmas dinner — with whoever turns up — I’m going to do my best to let go of perfection. We’ll pray for those whose Christmas day might not be so joyful and give thanks for all we do have — especially the gift of Jesus.
If you feel comfortable saying a prayer at your Christmas dinner, then here is one you might like to make copies of and place on each guest’s dinner place. As Paul Kelly so aptly reminds us, we might love the “treasure and the trash” of Christmas, but let us also pause to “praise the baby Jesus”.
Christmas Dinner Prayer
As we gather on this Christmas Day, we have so much to be grateful for.
We give you thanks for our family and friends — for those who are here, and for those we hold deep in our hearts.
We give you thanks for the food we are about to eat and for those who have prepared it.
As we thank you for our many blessings, we remember those who will spend this Christmas Day alone, homeless or hungry. In your mercy, bless each one of them and grant us generous hearts that honour the dignity of all your people.
May the message of love, hope and peace that Jesus offers our world be shared among us today, and in the days to come. Amen.
Words: Sharon Brewer