From my seat at the head of the table, I take it all in: the colorful dishes of food that took way too long to prepare, the long-stem glasses of Merlot, friends laughing at each other’s stories as they eat. And, finally, my eyes meet my husband’s. Sitting a few seats away, we shoot each other a knowing look that says, “This is it. This is what it means to feel at home.”
Austin and I love hosting dinner parties. Like so many of our fellow Millennials, dinner parties have become a savored and ceremonial experience, and we are glad to find the practice making a comeback in our generation. Millennials, more than our parents’ generation, are setting tables for 10 with such force that it is changing the housing market and re-centering the kitchen and formal dining room as the heart of the home. Real estate agents are encouraged to show Millennials open-concept kitchen and living spaces that allow ample room for hosting groups of friends, dedicated bar space for mixing drinks Mad Men style, and efficiently placed appliances that allow us to cook multi-course meals for our guests.
And this generational shift isn’t just showing up in the housing market, but in the grocery store as well. Millennials, our parents might be surprised to find, are learning to cook—and we’re getting pretty good at it. In fact, Millennials are twice as likely to resolve to cook at home as our parents’ generation and find particular affinity for cooking with, and for, friends. Sure, we might eat a box of organic mac and cheese on any given Tuesday, but we pull out all the stops for a dinner party, pouring quality wine or mixing craft cocktails for the friends around our tables as an expression of generosity.When we look ahead to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, we don’t just seen affinity-based friendships around the table; we see a family dinner.
Our generation’s version of hospitality may not mirror the Sunday family dinners valued by Baby Boomers, but around our tables you will find intentionally diverse groups of friends who are connecting in truly meaningful ways. We’re not throwing dinner parties just because we don’t like to eat alone, but because we crave friendship, community, and sense of belonging in our more nomadic lives. And so, we’ve cultivated a space that reflects these values: the food, the friends, and the flatware (and we’re pretty pleased when it all looks particularly good on Instagram), as we open our homes and our dinner tables to those we love.
As Christians, we can’t help but notice the ways that this generational shift rightly reflects Christian truths about the Kingdom of God—the ultimate, final dinner party around the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Christ, both in his earthly ministry and in his coming Kingdom, exemplifies what it means to feast around a table that is set with the very best. Before Jesus entered public ministry, he was invited to a wedding at Cana. Traditionally, the lord of the feast would have overseen the entire, multi-day celebration in which friends would come and celebrate the bride and bridegroom. Early in the celebration, the very best wine would be served while guests’ palates were heightened; then, when guests had eaten and drank already, the cheaper wine would be poured. While Jesus is at this event, and long before the celebration was to end, the wine, even the cheap stuff, runs out. This lack would have been culturally shaming to the host (or, lord of the feast), illuminating his inability to provide financially for that number of guests to drink their fill. Into this area of lack Christ performs his first miraculous sign of divinity: he turns the servants’ pots of water into the highest quality wine.
Throughout history Christians have used this passage as a proof-text to make a case for drinking alcohol. But I think we’re missing a much more profound reality: Christ fills the role of the lord of the feast while assuming the role of a servant. He could have aligned himself with the wedding party or the celebrated family; instead, he aligns himself with the servants. He doesn’t make a great public display of his power, but performs this miracle in unseen spaces, in a back room where the workers are preparing and plating food. Though Jesus is operating as the lord of the feast by providing the very best for this celebration, he takes on that responsibility with the humility of a servant.
It should not surprise us, then, that this is Jesus’ first miracle in his earthly ministry. It foreshadows in a very real way the coming wedding feast of the Lamb. From that wedding meal, Christ’s humble servitude looks forward to the next time he will preside over a wedding feast. When his earthly ministry is complete and his Kingdom has come in full, he will preside over the Wedding Feast of the Lamb—not as an unseen servant, but as the Bridegroom. The miracle at Cana perfectly foretells of Christ’s coming ministry—that of a servant who lays aside his rights and title, and pays the price for that which we cannot afford—and foreshadows his heavenly glorification in which the Bridegroom will take his rightful place as the Lord of the Feast at the head of the table. There, we can be sure the wine will also be the very best.
In many ways, Millennial dinner parties prefigure this coming feast. As my husband and I look up recipes we can’t pronounce, learn to cook foods we’ve only seen in magazines, and pour better wine than our typical three-dollar bottle of Charles Schwab, we emulate the Christ who provided the very best for his friends at Cana. It is a very real, financial, physical, tangible way that we serve our friends and extend the best we have to those we love.
But, even as we prepare hors d’oeuvres and shake up craft cocktails for our friends, we notice something missing around our table. We may have set the table for 10, using our best (although mismatched) glassware and platters, and are surrounded by friends we truly love, but something is glaringly missing: family. Around our own dinner party table and the tables of our Millennial friends, we notice the striking way that family is absent.
There are a lot of factors that affect this. While many Millennials still live at home, those who do not are less likely to live near family, making it nearly impossible to include them in a bi-weekly or monthly tradition. We are a more nomadic generation, and one with a particular propensity to move away from family; in fact, nearly one-third of Millennials cited getting away from family as a primary reason for relocating, according to a Forbes survey. Ours is also the generation that has brought “Friendsgiving” into common vernacular and practice; we have taken a holiday historically is set aside for family and replaced it with a holiday to celebrate with the guests we choose. Many of us (myself included) have chosen our friendships based on shared affinity. Around the table in our own home, you’ll find friends from our church that share the same interests we do, spend their time and money in ways similar to us, and enjoy the same food and drink we do. Because we have moved every few years and have not put down roots, we have honed the skill of quickly finding people we enjoy, choosing to befriend them, and inviting them to our dinner parties.
This is not altogether a bad thing, but we cannot help but notice the way that the curated group of friends around our own table disfigures the coming Kingdom Feast. When we look ahead to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, we don’t just seen affinity-based friendships around the table; we see a family dinner.
The glory of the Kingdom of God is that all are welcome and all are made family. Throughout the Old and New Testaments we constantly see God’s relentless way of bringing outsiders into his family. There are few places that this is more notable that the family tree of Christ where we see Gentile after Gentile brought into God’s family and grafted right into his family tree. Central to the character of our God is a desire and delight in making those who were once far off—you and me—near to the heart of God. And when he does, he doesn’t just befriend us (though, he does that, too); he makes us sons and daughters.
As we anticipate the coming Kingdom Feast, we can have great confidence that there will be those there that we would not have chosen. Just like some family members, we will be tethered in familial bond to some who, this side of the Kingdom, we would hardly want invite into our own homes. And they are the ones with whom, by God’s grace and goodness, we will share a family dinner as our Lord presides, finally in his rightful place at the head of the table, and the Bridegroom and Lord of the Feast.
I’m going to keep throwing dinner parties. With this heavenly banquet in view, I want to keep serving the best I can afford, embodying the generosity of our God who left us an example of humble service that offers abundance. But, also in the likeness of Christ, I want to go outside my preferences and affinity, inviting those unlike me, and inviting my own sweat-and-blood relatives as the opportunity presents itself. And, as we do so, we anticipate the glorious day when, at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, we will look at our family gathered around the table and realize, “This is it. This is what it means to be Home.”