“He who walks with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (Prov. 13:20)
O who will walk a mile with me
Along life’s merry way?
A comrade blithe and full of glee,
Who dares to laugh out loud and free
And let his frolic fancy play,
Like a happy child, through the flowers gay
That fill the field and fringe the way
Where he walks a mile with me.
And who will walk a mile with me
Along life’s weary way?
A friend whose heart has eyes to see
The stars shine out o’er the darkening lea,
And the quiet rest at the end o’ the day—
A friend who knows, and dares to say,
The brave, sweet words that cheer the way
Where he walks a mile with me.
With such a comrade, such a friend,
I fain would walk till journey’s end,
Through summer sunshine, winter rain,
And then?—Farewell, we shall meet again!
–Henry van Dyke
As we walk through the season of Advent, ever closer to Christmas day and on toward Epiphany, my question for us this morning is simply, where do we see friendship in the overall Christmas narrative?
Zacharias and Elizabeth (were of old age, without children—shared grief and longing can breed friendship)
Elizabeth and Mary (similar situations often grow friendship, and we know Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months during pregnancy)
Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives rejoiced with her (rejoicing with others shows friendship or friendliness)
Mary and Joseph (betrothed, destined for marriage and life together—and if nothing else, they had shared experiences of angel visitation! I imagine their conversations together could have been awesome)
Shepherds who worked together in fields (work often builds friendship)
Wise men, magi, from the East (worked or studied together: again, common interests and communal work are solid ground for friendship building)
John and Jesus (cousins and comrades, both working toward the same Kingdom goals)
But where do we see the deepest friendship of all?
The deepest and truest embodiment of friendship is in Jesus Himself. And we don’t just see that in the Christmas narrative, but we live even today in the reality of that friendship.
In John chapter 15, Jesus tells us of His deep love for us—for those who abide in Him, and abide in His love. He wants our joy to be full. (What better description of friendship could there be than that? A desire that another’s joy would be full!) And then listen to what He says: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)
Jesus calls His people—His disciples then, and all of us now who are called by His name—He calls us His FRIENDS.
He took on human flesh because He was sacrificing Himself for us. And when He says that the greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends—He is reminding us that it is friendship with Him that ought to be our deepest love, our biggest desire, our truest relationship. He laid down His heavenly glory to be clothed in flesh. He laid down His flesh to be slaughtered as the sacrifice to atone for our sins. He sent us His Spirit to be our Comforter. He promises to come back.
Jesus is the one who walks with us along life’s merry way, life’s weary way, all the way until journey’s end—and beyond. Because He is such a Friend, we can see other friendships in Advent, in the nativity, in the Word made flesh, in the magi’s journey, in the presentation at the temple, in the Gospel arising and being the light to the nations!
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Precious Savior, still our refuge
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.
–Joseph Scriven (excerpts)
Indeed, we will find friendship there. We DO find friendship with Jesus. Those who are called by His name are called His friends, and He was born to lay down His life for us so that we can go and do likewise.