Sunday, December 25, 2011

Never Alone

The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1.14)

Among Us

We had a bit of a scare this weekend. One of Walt’s online buddies—who, like countless others during the holiday season, has been struggling with loneliness and despondence—messaged that he was giving up. He felt so isolated and unloved that he wrote, “They won’t find me for weeks after I do it, because no one calls or comes around.” Walt had only his friend’s screen name, first name, the town he lived in, and some sketchy information about his professional life to go on. But he also had two invaluable gifts: driving concern and years of journalism experience. He set out to find his friend, hoping he’d reach him in time. Late last night we heard from his town’s police department. They’d located him. He was alive and had come to grips with his depression. As much as all could be well, it was.

When the good news came, I was staring at Sunday’s Gospel (John 1.1-14), wondering what I could possibly say about this famous passage. This is John’s brilliantly mystical Incarnation account, unhindered by human involvement and incidentals. No Mary, Joseph, Baby, angels, shepherds, Magi, star, stable—nothing we can paint or put on a greeting card—just the Word, the eternal God, calling Light and Life into existence and then becoming Life to bring Light to our dark, dangerous, and deadly world. “They found him!” Walt told me with great relief, adding, “I’m wrung out. I’m going to bed.” He kissed me goodnight, we exchanged “Merry Christmases,” and when I returned to the text, two words from John 1.14 caught my eye: among us.

All That is God’s

The Good News of Christmas is we are not alone. We can never be alone. The Word, unceasingly present, unconditionally loving, and unhampered by our blindness, lives among us. With us. In us. The Word that called Light and Life into existence becomes Life to bring Light to our loneliness, depression, and hopelessness. “Like a father’s only son,” John says—meaning all that is God’s is Christ’s, and all that is Christ’s is ours—the Word that lives among us is “full of grace and truth.” When human graces like kindness, concern, and acceptance forget where we live, the Christ Who lives among, with, and in us presents us with uncompromised grace. When feelings of isolation and abandonment conjure lies to convince us we’re on our own, Christ’s everlasting truth breaks through our darkness.

We’ve worked the Nativity narratives from every angle. We’ve studied the prophets and rehearsed the fulfillment of their messages. We’ve sung the carols about the humble Infant, the shining star, the angel chorus, and the world-shaking implications of two young peasants’ courage to trust God’s promises. Now it’s time for us to contemplate the grace and truth that surround us: we’re never alone.


“Call Him ‘Emmanuel,’” Isaiah says, “God with us.” Today we rejoice in the Word that became flesh to live among us, praying we won’t let this sacred season pass without renewing our faith that we are never alone.

May the Word bring Life and Light to us in vivid ways that fill us with grace and truth. Happiest of Christmases to you all. Love, Tim.

Postscript: “No One is Alone”

It’s not a carol, hymn, or Christian song of any kind. It’s not even about God. It’s from Into the Woods, a musical about giants and witches and magic beans. Yet, despite the lyrical anomalies, every time I hear Stephen Sondheim’s “No One is Alone,” I hear the Word speak assurance to me: "I became flesh for you. You're never alone."