Written by Brian Johnson

I have been absolutely loving reading these devotionals over the past week. There are a lot of things that have been great – spiritual insights, fresh perspectives, etc. – but one of the most powerful things for me has been getting to know the people of Haymarket Church a little bit better. Learning these stories from people’s lives, learning about how various people understand and appreciate the Christmas season – over the past week I’ve learned new things about people who I have known for years, and it’s been really fun to discover new surprises with each new devotional that I read.

One of the most overlooked spiritual practices in Christianity is the practice of friendship. We talk all the time about prayer, reading the Bible, generosity, serving others, and things like that – but how often do we talk at church about the power of friendship? And yet, friendship is one of the most powerful forces in our lives; it’s why parents tell kids to be careful about who their friends are – because parents know that our children’s friends often have just as much – if not more – of an influence on our kid’s lives/actions/decisions/attitudes than we do as parents. Good friendships can pull us in a good direction, and bad friendships can pull us in a bad direction.

Which is why the Christian concept of a “holy friendship” is so important for our faith. (I know, the term “holy friendship” sounds kinda lame, but it’s a term that’s a few hundred years old, so I’m sure it was cool back then.) A holy friendship is a friendship that draws you closer to God, helps you grow in your faith, and helps you experience and share God’s love. Maybe it’s that friend who helps you laugh and see the good in the world when everything feels bad. Maybe it’s someone who challenges you to do what’s right even when it’s hard. Maybe it’s someone who is an example of what it means to live your faith on a daily basis. A holy friendship is a relationship that becomes part of your spiritual life – when your connection to your friend strengthens your connection to God.

One of the cool things about these Advent devotionals is that, to me at least, these daily readings have helped nurture holy friendships. Because I am reading these stories from people’s lives, all of these people are becoming part of my daily spiritual life. Their stories have become examples to me of how to live my faith, windows to help me see God’s presence in the world. By getting to know them better, I’m also growing closer to God.

This is a time of year that’s all about relationships – family gatherings, Christmas parties, buying gifts for loved ones – those are all things that we do because we value the power of relationships in our lives. And, the story we tell at Christmas is a story about relationships – it’s about people struggling to live faithfully and care for each other in difficult circumstances. It’s about a God who entered into our world – who became one of us – and who became dependent on relationships (to his mother, father, friends, disciples, shepherds, wisemen) for his very survival. It’s a story about a God who has reached out to us, offering us the gift of relationship with God and each other. In other words, this is a great time of year for celebrating holy friendships.

As we continue through December, I encourage you to take a moment and think about the holy friendships in your life. Who are the people who are there for you when you feel overwhelmed and alone? Who are the people who help you live a more loving life? Who are the people who help you grow closer to God? Take a moment to give thanks to God for those holy friendships in your life – and ask God to help you be that kind of holy presence for your friends as well.

Today’s Prayer: God, thank you for my friends. Thank you for all the people who help me grow closer to you. Thank you for the people who pour love into my life. And thank you for the power of friendship. Help me discover and share your love this December – and throughout the year.

If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!