John 6:31‑58; Matthew 26:26‑29
Since antiquity, wheat has been the most important grain in the world. China, traditionally considered a rice-eating country, annually consumes 190 lbs per capita of wheat, mostly in noodles. Each person in the US consumes about 144 lbs per year. Wheat is even more important in the Middle East, with annual per capita consumption in Israel of 294 lbs and Egypt of 384 lbs. Wheat is mentioned 52 times in the Bible, and Palestine was a major exporter in ancient times. Grains such as wheat and rice contain carbohydrates which comprise about 55% percent of a healthy diet.
Jesus taught that man cannot live by (physical) bread alone and said “I am the bread of life”. Just as physical bread is required for physical life, so spiritual bread, Jesus Christ, is required for eternal life. In a powerful but frightening statement, He said that unless people eat His flesh and drink His blood, they cannot have eternal life. Unless we take Jesus’ teachings into our hearts and minds, accept His sacrifice for our sins, and welcome His Holy Spirit into our lives, we cannot have eternal life.
During the last meal of Jesus’ life, He broke bread and gave it to His disciples to eat, representing His body to be broken by the Crucifixion, just a few hours away. He then gave them wine, representing His blood to be poured out for their sins. Earlier in His ministry Jesus taught these men that they needed to let His Spirit reign in them, and in this final hour, He symbolically helped them do so.
During the Holy Communion, the remembrance of this night, Christians take bread and wine to remember the Lord, and His great sacrifice for us. Whatever our specific tradition in the Christian faith, this remembrance is a chance to reconnect with His Spirit, and be made more like Him. But every day, whether Communion or Advent or not, we can thank God for His bountiful blessings.
As with the other decorations, wheat is a common element in our lives. Whether we are enjoying bread, noodles, pastries, cereals, or thousands of other food products using wheat, let us remember how Christ is the Bread of Life. If we eat heartily of His body, our joy in Christmas will be renewed. If we drink deeply of His blood, our peace in this busy time will be restored. If we pause and remember vividly His sacrifice, our wonder at the mystery of salvation will grow, and our awe and delight and His unfailing grace will abound.
Let us slow down and take time to come to Jesus for the bread and wine which sustains us through every trial and tribulation, gives us sustenance and encourages us to grow for Him.