The Same Fruitcake
Some families have really sweet Christmas traditions of doing kind, loving things for one another. Sarah, for example, makes these really pretty Christmas Tree ornaments for Wallace, a new one each year of his life, so that the tree becomes a little like a scrapbook as he grows up. My family growing up, on the other hand, had a little different tradition. Specifically my dad and his sister, Bonnie, when it came to Christmas gifts.
To fully appreciate this, you should know that both Dad and Aunt Bonnie are the type of people who go to great lengths not to offend anyone, and who would bend over backwards to be kind to everyone they encounter.
But when it came to exchanging Christmas gifts, they threw all that aside for one week a year. The gift exchange went on a two year cycle. When I took notice, it had already been going on for some time. Aunt Bonnie sent dad a 2500 piece jigsaw puzzle of the woods. Everything was trees, trees and leaves, so consequently every piece looked pretty much the same. That same year dad sent Aunt Bonnie a fruitcake.
The following year, Dad was not one to be outdone. He scouted all over town until he found puzzle with something like 3000 pieces. And the entire puzzle was a gigantic red circle. No corner pieces. All the edge pieces were curved. And there wasn’t even any gradient to the red. It was all the same shade. One enormous 3000 piece red circle. My guess is that puzzle is still sitting unopened in a box somewhere. That year Aunt Bonnie sent Dad a fruitcake. But not just any fruitcake. That year Aunt Bonnie sent Dad the same fruitcake. The same year old (at least) dried out, 8 pound fruitcake. I’m not sure which one of them won Christmas that year.
But I do know I was pretty much permanently turned off of fruitcake. I’m sure that particular one never got eaten, but it was the fruitcake, for me, to which all others were compared. And they all came out about even in my opinion. Heavy, stuffed full of dried out fruit pieces and loaded with so much cinnamon and nutmeg in a vain attempt to mask all the other repellent flavors.
But I got to thinking about fruitcake this year as one of those holiday traditions that I don’t really look forward to. There are several of those, which may be why my lovely spouse affectionately refers to me as Scrooge during this season. But I also think the fruitcake is a perfect image of the December Christmas season.
Listen again to our reading from Corinthians this morning.
The Body of Christ is just like a fruitcake—a fruitcake is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the fruitcake are one fruitcake, even though there are many different fruits and nuts. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one fruitcake, whether apple or apricot, pecan or walnut, cinnamon or nutmeg, and we all were given one fruitcake to eat. Certainly a fruitcake isn’t one ingredient but many.
In my defense, it may have lost a little something in the translation.
What does your December hold? Mine is often full of a bunch of different, disparate obligations, activities, and traditions. There’s our annual trip to the beach because I still haven’t moved up the list enough get a week when it’s not snowing there. It’s a fun week, but it also involves planning and leading worship for a church full of people I don’t know and two full days of travel. There’s the church party and Christmas program. There’s getting the house ready and preparing food for the drop-in at the manse after the Christmas Eve service. There’s a house full of family and a trip to Dollywood to see the Christmas lights. And somewhere in there is worship and a celebration of the Nativity of the Christ child. And all of that stuff gets mashed together into December and all together becomes something more than the sum of its parts.
I don’t know where you stand on all of that, what your Christmas season holds. Some of it might be familiar, while other parts might be brand new this year. Some parts may be enjoyable while others feel more obligatory. And you probably have other things going on. Work or friends or community things.
If the words in First Corinthians can shed some light on this month, on this time of year, and I wouldn’t have read them if I didn’t think they could shed some light, then we would hear them well as they tell us that God often brings things together to make something that is more than the sum of its parts.
Friends tell me that fruitcake can actually taste good, can actually be an enjoyable treat during the holidays. A colleague tells me that the fruitcake I’ve had is like a second rate can of chili off the grocery store shelf—it’s still technically chili, but in a whole different league from the stuff you make in your own kitchen, sautéing onions and garlic and simmering it all day long. Fruitcake, so I’m told, can be made with care and quality ingredients and can turn out fantastic.
May it be so for our lives this Christmas season as well. That all the different fruits of December, from our quiet worship to family time to shopping to holiday parties to whatever else the season holds, may it all come together, crafted by God, into something joyous and delightful. And if you’re one of those, like me, prone to approaching the season like it’s a several year old, dried out, fruitcake, may this be the year that God brings your taste buds alive.