A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

There are times in our lives when we desperately need to know that we’re not alone. For example, a few years ago I had a really weird, disconcerting experience. It was mid-morning; I was at my office at Vanguard University endeavoring to get ready for a class I was supposed to teach in a couple of hours when it seemed that I began to lose some brain function: I couldn’t concentrate; I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t remember little details—simple things like my own computer password and phone extension number.

Since this was a “new course prep,” I had prepared my afternoon lecture just the day before. The problem was that I couldn’t make sense of it. It was like gobbledy-gook to me—words that had been written by someone else, words that made no sense—just a bunch of black symbols printed on pieces of white paper. (Though my students might disagree, usually my lectures do make sense, at least to me!)

The more I tried to concentrate on what I had written, the more anxious I became. In a short amount of time I was supposed to stand in front of classroom full of college students and communicate something to them that, at that moment, I couldn’t even grasp. Eventually, an actual sense of panic began to set in.

That’s when I called my wife Patti, whose office at that time was in the same building, one floor above mine. (Patti served Vanguard University for twelve years as the executive administrative assistant to the president.) When she answered the phone, I told Patti that I thought I was experiencing some sort of stroke.

After hearing me describe what was happening to me, Patti put down the phone, set aside whatever important projects she was working on, came downstairs, and within a minute or two was standing at the doorway of my office.

Simply put, she was there for me. When I most needed a friend, a companion, a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Pr. 18:24), someone to walk through a dark place with me, she was there.

(We eventually decided that my “panic attack” was attributable to a significant season of stress exacerbated by way too much caffeine.)

What does any of this have to do with Christmas?


One of the most basic implications of Christmas is that we serve a God who was and is willing to “come downstairs” in order to be there for us.

In Matthew’s Gospel we read:

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” –which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

And, in John’s Gospel we read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . {14} The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . {16} From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. (John 1:1-16)

Two big lessons linger in my mind as I contemplate the truth presented in these two famous passages of Scripture:

First, we Christ-followers are never alone; we always have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

This important truth is verified by still other famous passages found in the Gospels of Matthew and John:

. . . And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:18)

Speaking figuratively, no matter where we are in this world, Jesus’ office is always just above ours. We don’t even have to pick up a phone to reach him; he’s always just a whispered pray away.

Second, sometimes Jesus wants to use us to carry his presence into the lives of other Christ-followers.

There are a couple of ways that Jesus shows up in the doorway of our lives when we really need him. Most often, Jesus shows up via the comforting, empowering presence of his Holy Spirit. But sometimes, when he knows we need something a bit more empirical, Jesus shows up via the comforting, empowering presence of a person with skin on, a fellow Christ-follower in whom he resides, someone we can literally touch and clutch in our time of desperation.

This is what I experienced when Patti came downstairs and personally entered into my crisis experience with me. This is also what I’ve experienced many times in thirty-five years of ministry as the person sent by the Lord to “be there” for someone else.

Have you ever experienced this phenomenon? Have you ever had Jesus manifest toward you his comforting, strengthening presence in the form of another person? Have you ever had Jesus use you to be his comforting, strengthening presence in someone else’s life?

Take it from me: I know from personal experience that there are times when the greatest thing we can do for a hurting person is to provide him or her with some of Christ’s Christmas presence—to simply “be there” in their time of need; to “be there” when they are feeling truly alone and desperate; to “be there” when they are most in need of a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Something to think about.