The Seasonal Practice:
SPEND AN EVENING IN LONG CONVERSATION WITH A FRIEND
One of my favorite lines in all of the Christmas hymns is buried in O Holy Night. I sang it for my whole life and never noticed it until I was writing out the lyrics a few years ago. It is this:
Chains he shall break
for the slave is our brother.
One of the amazing facts of vulnerable conversation with friends is that when we actually talk to each other - like when we really say what we mean - we realize that none of us are OK. We are all enslaved to something or another, often really dark things that run counter to the life we are otherwise trying to present to the world.
We need help. And we need to be open to each other about that help. We need to let the light in.
Christ is the light of the world, and light exposes the darkness. For this reason, it is an incarnational practice to be light in each other's lives by talking about what is actually true. By being vulnerable, and being vulnerable regularly, we bring the Gospel to bear on each other. Lives, in fact, are saved by telling the truth to each other.
So friendship - and the practices of friendship - are fundamental to lives of loving God and neighbor.
It is always been true that we need friends. Of course God made us that way, we are formed in the image of trinitarian friendship of God so that even Adam was lonely with God in the garden of Eden until God gave him his first friend in Eve.
And how much more so do we need it in a place that encourages us to curate or every moment online, to show off our best to the world, and yet simultaneously allows us to have a completely secret life on the internet. How badly in this world do we need a real friend to hear our secrets that we spend our lives otherwise so desperately trying to hide.
In habits of intentional and vulnerable conversation, we form friendships that embody Christ’s gospel to us by saying “I know you completely and I am sticking around anyway.”
This is not just something that is nice for our life, it is an act of love for neighbor. Many of us could search the streets all day long for a man beaten in the road, longing to be the good Samaritan but we won't find one. However, should we get past our neighbor's front door, we will find the majority of people leading lives of quiet desperation, and there is no medication for the anxiety and depression that riddles the common American like a friend that comes back week after week, looking to spend some time telling the truth.
THE COMMON RULE
While the regular Common Rule (the "non-Advent Edition", if you will) includes the weekly practice of setting aside an hour of intentional conversation with a friend (more on that here) the idea of the Advent Edition is just to have one long evening of conversation with a friend.
This might be a family member you see over the holidays who you ask to set aside some time with. If you do that, I recommend getting away from the house and actually blocking out the time. Often it's tremendously exciting to be asked by someone to spend some good one on one catch up time - perhaps that's a gift you could give to someone around Christmas.
A more likely scenario would be to schedule a time with a close friend and make an evening of it, talking about how this year went, and what the hopes you have for next are. A fire and some good drinks won't hurt.
Finally, consider planning it out. It's incredible the amount of time and effort we give holiday parties (which can be terrific fun) but what if you gave even a fraction of that planning and prepping effort to an evening of conversation with a friend? It might forever alter your lives. It's worth thinking about.
If you're looking for some kick-off questions, try these:
- Who is your best friend right now?
- Who is worst enemy right now?
- What are you proudest of this year?
- What do you most regret this year?
All of that said, there is really only one really important thing to say here: Find someone you love, and tell the truth to each other. All of it.