Friendship Advent Reflection, Day 11

Advent time can also be a time of stories. Growing up, my dad read Advent devotions with the family every evening. As we sat around the table, he would read a story or two, usually translated from the German devotional book he was using, and then we would light the number of candles for the appropriate week. As I reflect back on this practice, I like to think that we were using our narrative imaginations, as we placed ourselves in the shoes of the characters, and thought about how we would react to the events unfolding in the story.

As the early church made sense of Jesus' message and practices, it too reflected about his story, their stories, and God's story with the world. In Acts, we learn that the church "shared all things in common" and were "one soul," typical phrases from the Greek world that described the practice of friendship. They understood that one way of being the kinds of friends Jesus would have them be was to give up all their possessions, sell what they had, pool the proceeds, and provide support for those among them who were in the greatest need. This may or may not be the model of Christian community that is most relevant for today. Nonetheless, it shows that the earliest Christians were imagining their friendships anew as they reflected about their part in the Jesus story. I also think Luke tells us that story so we too can imagine new and creative ways in which we might be part of the Jesus story.  What do you think? What stories do you hear and tell in your life that are important to you? Do we today suffer from narrative deprivation? In other words, are the stories that we tell enriching, challenging, and nourishing, or do they just deplete us, turn us into mindless consumers, and shrink our creativity?  Have we made the story of our God too small, turning God into our own Cosmic Butler and Divine Therapist? Or is the story of our God one of boundary breaking friendships, a story that helps us reexamine our relationships and community afresh each day?

 Each day of advent, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, I plan to post a few thoughts on an aspect of friendship I learned while writing my book, Virtuous Friendship: The New Testament, Greco-Roman Friendship Language, and Contemporary Community, available on Amazon through this link. This will be a chance for me to share with you all a little bit from what I learned, while giving you, hopefully, a chance to take a deep breath during this busy season and do some reflection. Also, you won't have to secure another resource for Advent. I realize that you are all at many different places with regard to faith and belief, so use these reflections however you see fit. If you'd be interested in having me come speak at your church, lead a Bible Study, or even just Zoom or Skype in for a Q&A with a Sunday School class or other small group, let me know: doug.hume@pfeiffer.edu.

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