“Company coming” can be either good news or bad news—depending on who they are, what we must do to entertain them, and how long they will be with us. One thing is sure, some preparations and adjustments must be made.

Samuel Wells, in his thoughtful book A Nazareth Manifesto, observes: “We’ve stumbled upon the most important word in the Bible—the word that describes the heart of God and the nature of God’s purpose and destiny for us. And that word is with.” Using many Hebrew and Christian scriptures, he points out how God decided to come along “with us” long before it became necessary to do something “for us”.

In our ministries to the poor and marginalized we exert great energy trying to do things “for” them, but often just being “with” them is all we can manage. This is especially the case when we are up against the entrenched systems that oppress them. My own focus is prison ministry, and I can testify to the frustrations of seeking criminal justice reform. Many days I must admit to the incarcerated that I can’t change the system, but only that I came to be with them. The mere act of coming is frequently enough in human relations, and it is also a good way to meditate on the Incarnation we are about to celebrate.

As Wells puts it: “Most of the time we just want God to fix it, and spare us the relationship. But that’s not God’s way. God could have done it all alone. But God chose not to. God chose to do it with us. Even though it cost the cross. That’s the wonder of Christmas. That’s the amazing good news of the word with.”

O come, O come, Emmanuel. Company is coming, and his name is Jesus!

Reflection by Fr. Christian N. Reuter, OFM based on A Nazareth Manifesto (Being With God) by Samuel Wells, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2015