The name Jesus is given—Immanuel—means “God with us.” This name reminds us we are not meant to be alone.
When I was a student at Auburn University, I had no money. My brothers and I had to work our way through college. While there I ate cheaply at every opportunity and longed for my mom’s cooking. I went to every event with free food and took a job at a BBQ joint where I could eat for free at any time.
Since Auburn is a college town, restaurants were always trying to get the students in. There were burger nights and cheap pizzas after midnight. On Wednesdays, we went to a sports bar called Ryan’s where they had 10-cent wings.
That is not a typo. A dime a wing.
So we went to wing night a lot. It was a crazy atmosphere and was a lot like a frat house full of large, young men eating wings and downing pitchers of beer. You had to wait a while to get a table, but it was worth it. I didn’t drink beer, so all my funds went to those wings.
Those nights are a blur from nearly 30 years ago, except for one night I will never forget. Before our church’s Wednesday night Bible study about a dozen of us went to wing night, where we would join about one hundred other college students. We waited a long time to be seated, and then they just started bringing baskets of wings to us while we waited. It was a little like heaven, seeing all those orange and glowing pieces of deep-fried spicy chicken, garnished with blue cheese dressing and arriving unannounced.
We’d been there for a while and were about to leave when I noticed a very large guy sitting there alone with dozens of wings and a pitcher of beer all to himself. In the midst of this party-like atmosphere, he’d sat and waited for a table, then did wing night alone.
I have not been able to shake that memory. It ruined my evening in the best way possible—I remember that. I remember turning over in my mind that scene of him sitting there all by himself, surrounded by revelry but not really being a part of it. I may have been even sadder about it than he was. But deep inside of me, there was an unshakable conviction that no one should go to wing night alone.
In pastoral ministry—and in the weariness of the business world—I have seen that night played out again and again. Lonely students. Lonely spouses. Lonely pastors. Many of them surrounded by people but crowded in with a loneliness they cannot seem to get away from.
Part of the great news of the incarnation is that Jesus is called Immanuel—God with us. Because of Him, loneliness, that echo of death from all the way back in the garden, is ultimately defeated. We have the promise of being alone no more. We may feel lonely and we may be physically alone, but the reality is our Lord and Savior and Redeemer and friend, Jesus, has promised to never forsake us or leave us.
The message of Christmas is that we have not been left alone with our sin. We have been left alone in no way at all.
Written by Matthew B. Redmond