There is something incredibly significant about eating together. Especially around the holidays, our conversations often revolve around food. What cookies will you make? What are your favorite treats? What do you eat on Christmas day? Sharing food with friends and family is a wonderful way we celebrate together.
Except when you can’t.
Our family had our world turned upside almost 10 years ago when our oldest child was diagnosed with several food allergies. We’re now used to eating differently, but there’s something about Christmas that makes it a bit harder. After all, food is a surprisingly significant part of our faith. Our worship centers on a meal the family of Christ shares together. We see pictures of meals through the Old Testament, we share the Lord’s Supper and we look forward to the marriage supper of the lamb when Christ comes to reign on earth again.
As believers, we’re supposed to eat together. Sadly, our family misses out on some of those shared experiences because of our food allergies and intolerances.
But that’s okay. This is but one example of what it feels like to live in a world that is far from what it was meant to be. Fortunately, for those who are united to Christ, we get to see that start to change. We get to begin to participate in the love and union that we will experience throughout eternity by loving one another and carrying one another’s burdens. As the rate of food allergies continues to rise, the church should be prepared to love those families well.
This is a special time of year, full of wonder and hope, where we celebrate that God himself “came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and was made human.” We share his body and blood at the Lord’s Supper. We will celebrate his marriage feast with his bride, the church, when he returns. So let’s continue to feast! And let us remember those in our church families for whom food is scary and this time of the year, full of feasting, is anxiety-laden.
A simple, and accidental, cross-contamination has sent friends to the Emergency Room and can make our family sick for several days.
As Christians, we are commanded to carry one another’s burdens. While you could do this in many ways, one way is to love and serve families with food allergies in an understanding way. Through this Christmas season, notice those around you who may have a gluten or dairy intolerance or various other food sensitivities.
How can you serve families with food allergies? Here are a few simple tips.
1. Let us bring our own food.
I am always so thankful when friends want to cook for us, but until you know us well it’s just easier for me to bring our own. It’s not an offense to you, it’s just complicated on our end. We still want to spend time with you, and dinner is still a great time, but please let us bring our own. This year, if you’re planning for an outside get together, it’s even easier for each family to bring their own food and still celebrate together.
2. Cook with me.
It would be so fun to spend a few hours cooking with friends! Whether a whole meal or fun treats, the time spent together is priceless. And it helps me make sure that all of the ingredients are safe for our family. This could even be over a video call! And make sure you notice which brands we use because not all gluten free noodles are made equal. Then, having seen what is safe for a specific family, you could ask to make that same meal and bring it in a few weeks.
3. Have an event without food.
I know, I know, it seems crazy. But did you know that people can have fun without food? Especially around Christmas, there are so many games that you can play or movies to watch. Depending on the families involved, kids can make salt dough ornaments and paint them or play pin the nose on Rudolf. It would even be easier to maintain social distancing and keep masks on if food is not involved.
Families with allergies, your church family loves you.
4. Acknowledge that food allergies are real.
Finally, please remember that food allergies and intolerances aren’t a joke. A simple, and accidental, cross-contamination has sent friends to the Emergency Room and can make our family sick for several days. It’s not in our heads; it’s in our bodies. We want to be with you! We just also need to stay safe and healthy.
Families with allergies, your church family loves you. Help them to love you well and extend kindness at every turn. There will be a day when all who are in Christ will live in glorified bodies and there will be no sickness or death! There will be no food allergies! And we will get to fully enjoy the marriage supper of the lamb! In the “not yet,” help them learn how to share your burdens with love, patience and kindness.
After all, Christmas is the perfect time to spread hope and joy and to love one another well — food allergies or not.
 Nicene Creed