We had a fabulous pre-Christmas gathering with good friends last night.
We ate wonderful Portuguese food, enjoyed much laughter, sang songs and reflected on why Christmas is such a special time of year.
It was church as it should be: no more than can fit around a dining table, conversation that ranges from the serious to the hysterical, all wrapped in prayer and genuine concern for one another.
Such a gathering brings us close to how church was in the New Testament. Of course, the culture is very different and we cannot go back. But the domesticity, intimacy and hospitality of the meal table embodies something close to God's heart.
Christmas is often seen as a family affair, which is ok. But really the heart of the story is a community affair. All kinds of people - individually and in groups - are invited to gaze in wonder at the baby in a feeding trough in an over-crowded Bethlehem home, where all the generations were rallying round to do what they could to welcome the new arrival and anyone who turned up was drawn into the circle of praise at what God was and is doing among us.
Ah, I love Christmas!