It was the perfect used bookstore. Every row was double shelved. Books threatened to tumble from the tops, squishing patient book-smellers. But these precariously perched objects weren’t just any books. They were rare editions and signed copies stacked along the edges of the thin aisles. Velvety red carpet covered old creaking ramps to connect aisles. A man with a hat on sat alone in alcove seven, blind to the rest of the world and completely content.
I realized today as the sun chased me from my comfortable spot on the couch that I’ve returned home to my alcoves. Winter break has granted me time to memorize the pattern of the winter sun. Still, it shocks me when it moves to just the perfect spot to blind me. It happens just as my sisters come home from school, telling stories and accepting hugs with giggles. I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China. I’ve had tea at the Ritz in London. I’ve seen sea otters swim in Glacier Bay, Alaska, but still this spot on the sofa is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s my alcove.
These alcoves sing the song of Christmas. We all want a place to belong, somewhere to fit in. Last Spring taught me the sorrow of not belonging, the ache of not having a sure or steady alcove. It was no one’s fault, except for maybe my own, and I still had some good times and people who loved me completely. But it was a time of learning. When you’re rejected, suddenly, every truth you’ve ever known is replaced with questions: “am I good enough?”, “how could anyone ever like me?” “will I ever have friends again?” Even places that should have been niches where I did belong became dark because I was harboring sadness in my heart, and I didn’t even know why.
That’s why Jesus left His realm. Heaven was so much bigger than a mere alcove. He left every comfort so He could be our home. He came to a world in which God did not belong so that we will always belong. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself.”1 The hope of the world, the salvation for us all did not have a home. No, he was born in a stable to a mother and father who knew the sting of rejection. He satisfied the longings of the ancient hearts, and he lived to introduce this world to Love.
This semester, I’ve known what it is like to belong again. Love has covered me, surrounded me. Laughing with friends, I’ve found so many alcoves. But I know it wouldn’t be a home unless Jesus was the foundation. He’s the reason for the love I’ve found this year, but he was there in my season of loneliness too. Because He knew Joy and he knew loneliness. He knew betrayal and rejection, more than anyone ever will: “But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’ ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.”2. He also knew acceptance. The creator God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”3
The bookstore with the alcoves was just one of many stops in Nashville. Last night, I sat beside my daddy in little alcove called the Ryman. The most incredible musicians (Andrew Peterson, Jon Foreman, Caleb Chapman, Jill Phillips, Andy Gullahorn, Ron Block, Randall Goodgame, Sally-Lloyd Jones, and about twenty others) played with humility. They sang the true tall tale of the coming of Christ. The faithful came, and as they played, I was filled with peace and awe.
“Glory to Jesus
Ancient and strong
Giver of love
And the theme of my song
Glory to Jesus
Ancient and strong
Come to Your people
And carry us home
So sing out with joy for the brave little boy
Who was God, but He made Himself nothing
Well He gave up His pride and He came here to die
Like a man
So rejoice, ye children sing
And remember now
And sing out with joy
For the brave little boy is our Savior
Son of God
Son of Man” 4
- Philippians 2: 6-8
- John 19:15
- Matthew 17:5
- Andrew Peterson, “The Theme of my Song”