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A Feast for the King!

A family eating dinnerEpiphany, January 6, 2011, is the perfect time for a celebration—to gather the faith community for rejoicing and remembering the manifestation of the incarnation. It is time for fellowship and worship, enhanced by the coming of royalty to our midst, bringing gifts for the Christ child. Epiphany reminds us to plan a feast for the King!

Invite everyone to sign up in advance to bring something for a celebratory meal: an appetizer, salad, or vegetable, with the church supplying the meat and the cake for dessert. Prepare an atmosphere of fun, but also of awe and wonder. Use candlelight to add a special touch on the tables and as a perfect reminder that the child, whose birth we recently celebrated, comes to be the Light of the World. Keep the room lighted only by candles to bring a rich feeling to the shared meal.

Arrange the tables in the room so that the people, seated around the outside only, face the center of the room. This gives everyone a view of the entire room from their perspective. It allows participants to look around the room and enjoy a setting unlike other dinners that you may have at your church. This room arrangement helps with movement through the rest of the evening’s activities.

In the midst of the table setting, add a manger filled with straw and a figure of the Christ child. Put a paper king’s crown at each person’s place before the meal and instruct everyone to wear their crown throughout the meal. These symbols invite us to remember that this night is a time for telling the story of Jesus’ birth and its impact beyond the town of Bethlehem.

Along one wall of the fellowship room hang a large banner inscribed with “20†C†M†B†11” (to symbolize the current year). This inscription represents a blessing over the entire community and encourages much discussion about exactly what it means. The letters in the phrase represent the first letters of the names of the Magi (Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar) and the four crosses represent the four seasons of the new calendar year. The actual year, 2011, is divided, with the twenty at the beginning and the eleven at the end, to embrace the other letters and symbols. This banner can be made by your church school students and decorated festively.

Begin the evening with appetizers—having the appetizer tables arranged apart from the dining tables. This allows people to move about and fellowship with snacks and punch before the full meal is served. Invite everyone to be seated when you are fairly certain that most members and visitors have arrived. This gradual and intentional gathering time is a gracious and hospitable way to start the festival.

At the end of the meal cut the “King’s Spice Cake” and place an almond inside three of the cut pieces. Serve the cake, making certain that three people of different ages receive these special pieces of cake. These three individuals are chosen for this night to be transformed into the Magi, soon reappearing with their gifts for the manger. As these Magi are taken behind the scenes to get ready, the tables are cleared and a time of worship begins.

With strains of “We Three Kings” playing, the three chosen ones come forth. They are now dressed in robes of finery with crowns of gold. They each bear gifts into the midst of the fellowship gathered around the tables. There, in the candlelight, the liturgy of communion begins. The bread is broken and the wine is poured. The elements are shared by intinction—all around the long tables, up and down the room, from one to another. Words are spoken softly, person to person, in the dimness of the evening, as music plays softly and the kings kneel by the manger with their gifts for the tiny king who came to bring us the greatest gift of all . . . salvation! It is a feast for the King!

Mary Lou Ferris Nash, a Christian education consultant and a former staff member of Latrobe Presbyterian Church and Redstone Presbytery in Pennsylvania, lives in Asheville, North Carolina.