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.'”
Michele Morin says
Yes to “Courageous welcome!”
Shannan, I’m reading your book this very week, and being challenged along these same lines!
Thank-you for all of your refreshing thoughts.
“Welcome new perspectives, and find those alone on the margins.”
When I’ve put myself in another’s shoes it’s helped me find them. I’d like to join you in walking the withness. (I really like that word).
Have a blessed day, and Happy belated Thanksgiving
Jasmine Ryan says
“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.” Amen. Thank you for shifting the perspective today! We need the lens that allows us to focus on the unseen before the seen, all around us and inside each other.
Thank you Shannan for these beautiful words! I love the idea of “withness.”
I’ve missed seeing your name in these posts so am glad you’re back.
K. Ann Guinn says
Thank-you for this challenge to unselfishly extend the love of Christ to those around us, balanced with the need to not over-extend ourselves. We need each other!
Beth Williams says
I sat knee to knee with my dad yesterday at the assisted living as we shared a Thanksgiving meal. It was good to see residents families join them for a change. I’m not big on hospitality, but for Christmas this year I did reach out to two young children on Angel tree and got them nice gifts-one outfit and a toy for the boy & two dressy outfits for the girl. I try to reach out & help the less fortunate in my area.
I agree that we need to quit having division and learn to love each other regardless of & because of differences. That way we will meet new people and learn things. We will be blessed because of it!
Shannan, may the Lord be praised for your gracious posting. The holidays can be a time of hard for those at the margins. “Where we have promised ourselves margin this season, let’s find those alone at the margins” is such a grace-filled message because it challenges us to seek the Lord in all His people, not just family, friends, or those deemed good. What a beautiful message that can change perspectives and move to end divisions and prejudices. Especially in this time of year, may we all seek the Savior in each other and those brothers and sisters in the margins, seeking to welcome them into our lives and spaces with the warmth of His mercy, love and grace 🙂
Shannan, I just finished reading your book, “Falling Free”. I want to give it as a Christmas gift to so many people. We lost our beautiful 20 year old son this Fall. Between his death and your book, I feel like a veil has been lifted from my eyes. I have been convicted to reach out to a neighbor that I have barely spoken to for almost 3 years. I told her about your book today and apologized for not showing her true hospitality before now. She is coming over to my house for coffee next week. Her entire life has been lived on the margin and I need to hear her story. Thank you for opening my eyes and my heart to the true meaning of hospitality.
Shannan Martin says
Leslie, your comment just stopped me in my tracks. I’m so very sorry about your loss.
It’s humbling that you would be writing my ol’ words while you’re in the midst of this sadness. I’m grateful God is somehow using them to breathe life into your soul. He’s so good at doing that in the most surprising ways. That you are reaching out to your neighbors right now? Just stunning and inspiring. Please feel my love tonight zooming back to you.
I just told my husband tonight to let Cory know that your writing has moved me in a way that I can’t explain. Our son would have been 21 in January. We never ran an obituary and there were 650 people at his Celebration of Life. He touched so many lives in his short time here. We can’t turn around without seeing him or hearing his voice. My son made a terrible decision on September 10th, but we know with absolute certainty that he is in the loving arms of our Savior. We grieve with hope that we will be reunited with him one day, but for now there is so much work to be done. I will be starting a suicide prevention program in Goshen Community Schools after the first of the year, and having coffee with many more neighbor’s.
Shannan Martin says
Leslie, you are local?? Who is your husband? Feel free to email me back. 🙂 firstname.lastname@example.org