With whom do we journey?
Matthew tells us of the wise men; Luke writes of the shepherds. For both groups, news of Jesus' birth comes to them in community. The Holy Family is a community. Christ arrives gazed upon by a mother and father; he doesn't materialize distant and isolated, like a futuristic superhero.
Certainly there are moments when we must, in our journey of faith, proceed alone. There are times when we must pray, or read, or contemplate, and do so without conversation and distraction. There are times our church consists of a cup of coffee, a book, and a sunrise, and silence offers its sweet homily. But eventually the Good News calls us to rise and respond. And scripture, in the stories of the wise men and the shepherds (not to mention many others), tells us of the importance of companions.
The Word of Christ doesn't come to us as isolated beings, but as persons sharing lives. Revelation is not a private matter. In the words of scripture scholar Fr. John P. Meier, "As presented in the Gospels, discipleship involves not just an individualistic relation of a single pupil to his teacher but the formation of a group around the teacher who has called the group into existence." Christ, Lord of Heaven and Earth, doesn't serve by himself; he serves in community. And so must we. A faith that isn't shared, a faith that doesn't seek co-existence, is a faith that is incomplete. Even though I might speak colloquially of "my" faith, that faith is simply a portion of the bread, broken and blessed, that is distributed to others.
Christmas season is a time to reflect upon those with whom we journey, with our companions in faith. Who joins us on the path toward Bethlehem? Who strengthens us when we grow weak, when we lose ourselves in doubts and questions? With whom do we share our confusion and announce our joy?
For this group of men and women in my own life, I am most grateful.