I am about to insult my mother’s Christmas roast, and probably yours too. Please don’t misunderstand me. I love my mother’s Christmas roasts. It is arguably the best part of my Christmas Day, as I am sure many other people would agree.
We go to church on Christmas Day and the congregation are asked, ‘What are you looking forward to today?’ Every year there is that one dad who shouts out, ‘Food!’, and everyone hums in agreement. Check social media during the day, and you will see it full of families around the dinner table as roasts are compared. For the chef, the pressure is on.
I want to share with you one of my favourite Christmas Days. I had come back from university for the holidays and it was decided that that year we would have Christmas dinner in the church building. It was an open invitation for anyone to join and we all brought something to add to the table. Reflecting on it, that was one of the best Christmas dinners I had ever tasted. This is my theory as to why.
When my mother and other ever-suffering chefs of the Christmas Day roast prepare the dinner, they tend to focus attention to detail on the turkey. Again, please don’t misunderstand me (especially you, Mum!), the rest of the meal tastes wonderful. However, all the emphasis is on the seasoning and the right temperature of the oven for that bird. This means that the other elements of the meal do not receive the same level of care in their preparation.
But, on that one Christmas Day, the sprouts were tossed with bacon, the carrots caramelised, the stuffing completely homemade, and the pigs in blankets were huge! Why? Because each person brought their own tasty gift they had nurtured in preparing for the meal. When we all brought our nurtured gifts to the table, it was the best Christmas dinner ever.
This reminds me of the church family. When there is only an emphasis on one particular gift, perhaps those seen as ‘more important’, then the other gifts are not given so much care and nurture. A church family can function, sure, but imagine if all the members of the church family had the opportunities to use and develop their God-given gifts. The Christmas roast has many elements to it, just like a body has many parts, but all the parts form the one body – and all the components form a Christmas dinner. This is what the church should be like in Christ (1 Cor. 12:12).
Let me tell you what my local church looks like at Christmas. Our pastor always thanks the decorating team for making the church building look Christmassy. Why? Because he expresses how terrible his tree-dressing skills are. The decorating team have a creative gift that our pastor doesn’t. But he has his God-given gift of preaching the Bible faithfully. We also have a group of musically talented people who play their brass instruments excellently. It is a treat to sing carols accompanied by them. And the stewarding team have been given gifts of warmth in greeting and organisation in packing a crowd of people in to our annual Carol Service. I could go on about the gifts of hospitality from those serving refreshments, to the strength and dedication of those putting chairs out. I hope all churches have those ‘Prayer Warriors’ who faithfully use their God-given gifts to lift the body of the church to God in prayer.
What is your God-given gift that you can bring to the table of the church family this Christmas? Is it something you could continue doing all year round? Remember, as we use our gifts to serve the body of Christ, we must do so with humility. Remind yourself that these gifts have been given by God, for his glory. Use the knowledge you have been taught to equip you for works of service (Eph. 4:12).
You know that satisfying, full feeling after the Christmas dinner? Think how much more fulfilling it will be when, by bringing our God-given gifts to the table of the Lord, the church body will ‘all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature’ (Eph. 4:13). Then we will receive the whole measure of the forever satisfying fullness of Christ. So, let’s ponder again. What is your God-given gift you can bring to the table this Christmas and beyond?
Ceri Passmore is a member at Emmanuel Evangelical Church, Chippenham.
Some Christmas recipes for you to try
Starter – Smoked Salmon Mousse
My friend’s mother recommended smoked salmon to me as a starter as it can be prepared well in advance and is not too heavy.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Servings: 20 appetizers
4 oz smoked salmon
8 oz neufchâtel cheese (or reduced fat cream cheese), softened for 30 seconds in the microwave
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
20 cucumber slices
2 tablespoons chopped chives for garnish
Place the salmon, cream cheese, lemon juice, and black pepper in your food processor bowl and process until smooth, scraping the sides down with a spatula if needed for about 5 minutes.
Transfer the mousse to a pretty serving bowl and serve with cut up vegetables.
Alternatively you could put the salmon mousse into a piping bag and pipe onto cucumber slices.
Garnish with chopped chives.
Crunchy Lemon, Parsley and Chestnut Stuffing
This was shared by one of the ladies at the church I attend, in our women’s WhatsApp group. I’m sure many families in our church will be trying this extra special stuffing this Christmas!
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 people
50g butter, plus extra to dot on top
1 large onion, finely chopped
100g celery, finely chopped
175g fresh white breadcrumbs
200g peeled and cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves (reserve the stalks for the turkey)
1 small egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Melt the butter in a pan, add the onion and celery and fry gently for 5 minutes.
Tip into a bowl, cool, then stir in the breadcrumbs, chestnuts, lemon zest, parsley and egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon into a buttered shallow ovenproof dish, dot with a little extra butter and set aside for 5 minutes.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve generously, and enjoy!
Mince Pie Cheesecake
Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it! One of my mum’s favourites. Rich and creamy, with a seasonal twist.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Chill time: 60 minutes
Servings: 8 people
150g digestive biscuits
50g ginger snap biscuits
125g butter, melted
500g light soft cheese
50g icing sugar
100ml double cream
zest of 1 orange
Lightly grease a 20cm baking tin with oil and fully line with baking parchment.
Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, mix with the melted butter. Tip into the baking tin, carefully spread into an even layer and press down firmly. Chill in the fridge whilst you prepare the cheesecake mixture.
Beat the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the icing sugar and beat to combine. Gradually stir in the cream until smooth and fold through the mincemeat.
Spread the cheesecake mixture over the base evenly and chill for about 1 hour, until firm.
Carefully remove the cheesecake from the tin by lifting up the baking parchment and cut into 8 even pieces. Top with the orange zest and serve.