Honest Advent: Day 24

December 24, 2022, By: Jimmy Scruggs

Day 24: Need

“The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”Luke 2:40

Many of us suffer—and I do mean suffer—from that all-American value of independence. At our best, we say, Let’s do this. At our worst, we say, I got this. In chasing efficiency and productivity at home and at work, we risk undermining our health, happiness, and relationships with the delusion that It’s just easier and quicker if I do this myself.

The German sociologist identified this as the Protestant work ethic in his study of capitalism. Our can-do, indomitable American spirit has been mythologized into a should-do, should-have, should-be consumer culture that is marketed upon us most heavily as fourth-quarter earnings, also known as the holiday shopping season, also known as Christmas. We muscle our way through a marathon of traditions and expectations. The mechanics of the season create a rivalry between joy and resentment, love and loneliness. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even on Dec. 24, the night before Christmas, the season is not too far gone to pause, or even stop, and say enough. To say, help. To say, Let’s do this—together. 

Many cultures around the world and within America’s own diverse fabric value the exact opposite, where dependence is the virtue. In my family’s Filipino culture, we have the concept of pakikasama. In essence, this means, Why go it alone when you can go with someone else? Filipinos expect and anticipate needing and receiving help, for companionship on the simplest and most mundane tasks or errands. Life and relationships are built in those little moments. Dependence makes for a strong sense of security because one’s ties to friends and families are based on mutual need and love.

It’s tricky to find that balance between healthy self-sufficiency and dependence. It’s probably been tricky for God. Our history with God is a story of need. God looked upon creation and said, “Looks good,” but then needed someone to share it with. Time passed, and God looked at what had become of creation and said, “Not good,” and knew what we needed but couldn’t do it alone. God needed Mary. Mary needed Joseph. God only knows what Joseph needed and from whom his help came.

To be both divine and fully human is to need. Whether we acknowledge the need or not, the need will always be there, waiting on us to surrender to it. Waiting for us to ask for help, to share the time and attention that life requires. People want to be needed. It’s painful to watch someone not ask for help and be unwilling to accept it. There is a distortion, a misperception happening. That not needing help equates to strength and independence, when really it reveals stubborn, foolish pride. Imagine if Joseph, upset that there was no room in the inn, spurned the help of the innkeepers when they offered him the manger.

Asking, giving, and receiving help this season is a way of making space for wonder. May you experience the fullness of your need, the lightness of asking for help, and the true peace and joy that comes only from the sacred and holy help of others and Christ.

—Melissa Howell Alipalo