Right now our 11-year-old neighbor boy and his family are battling crowds somewhere after having the spent the night in their conversion van, parked in a strip-mall lot with “the seats all folded down so we can sleep until it’s time.” He stood in my kitchen before school one morning last week and told me about this tradition with a smile so wide, I was tempted to believe that perhaps I’ve been missing out.
“Why doesn’t your family do this? It’s so fun!”
“Well,” I said, “I don’t like to get up early. Or stand in line. Or be cold.” He eyed me warily.
It’s Black Friday, and you and I might be spending the day differently. Maybe you’ve waited all year to track down deals on gadgets and boots; or maybe you’re still wearing bedhead and sipping your second cup of tea. You might be wearing a name tag and restocking the shelves when you’d rather be at home with your family. You might be delivering babies or the mail, studying for finals, or lowering a basket into a fryer.
All I really want to know is, when can you come over?
Every year around the time we wind our clocks back and it starts getting dark before dinner, I remember this thing called hospitality and how I’ve let it get lost once again in the shuffle. I start dreaming about roasts, sheet cakes, and mugs of decaf. I picture a house full of people as the day pulls its shades and the whole world, or at least what I can see of it, somehow fits around my table.
This year, I’m feeling it double. I’m feeling everything double, and I know I’m not alone.
In the fall-out of November 2016, Jesus’ prized command to “love your neighbor as yourself” invites us into the holy practice of togetherness. In this complicated world where we’re inclined to draw hard lines, choose sides, and circle up with whomever requires the least amount of ideological explanation and soul excavation, He offers a different way. We get to lasso our heavy hearts for His glory as we sit knee-to-knee with our neighbors and begin to understand and share their burdens.
For the next month or so, the days will grow shorter while the nights gather steam. What if we allowed our daily rhythms to fall into step with the shifting shape of the season? What if we drew a hard line against waiting alone and instead resolved to do it together?
Where we are tempted to think this season is earmarked for family, let us remember that Jesus spoke about family in the most practical ways, devoid of red-tape and thin definitions. You need a family? He asks. “Here is your son . . . Here is your mother” (John 19:26-27).
Where we have known the comfort of the familiar, let’s welcome the compression of new perspectives, inviting us into a truer glimpse of God’s kind heart and vibrant kingdom.
Where we have promised ourselves margin this season, let’s find those alone at the margins.
In this season as the world whispers division and fear, may we boldly push back the darkness, lighting our lamps and waving one another into our warm spaces. Any revolution will begin here in our kitchens and on our sofas as we look long into the eyes around us, daring to imagine life through a different lens.
I’m suggesting a bold declaration of peace through hospitality that pushes us way past our comfort. Every Friday this season, my family will be intentionally seeking ways to come together so that our hearts might remember the heart of Emmanuel. Care to join me in walking the “withness” of Christ into our cities and homes?
As we enter the anticipation of Christmas with hearts of Thanksgiving, may courageous welcome be our offering and the nearness of Christ our prize.
“She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'”