The other day The Andy Griffith Show came on T.V. as I was eating lunch. I grew up watching this family show on recorded VHS tapes in the early 90’s. My dad is a huge fan and by default, my sister and I were also. It’s something I look back on with fond memories, watching television together as a family, not worried about anything offensive or awkward popping up.
This particular one was the only Christmas episode in the entire eight-year series, and is one of my favorites. But something occurred to me this time while watching. The character Ben Weaver is a local storeowner in Mayberry, and also a grouch. He keeps purposely breaking the law to land himself in jail. Sheriff Andy Taylor lets him go because “it’s Christmas” and his Season One pharmacist girlfriend Ellie, begs him to do so.
Andy, his family, Ellie, and a local family in jail for moonshining celebrate Christmas together at the jailhouse. The scene then pans to Ben, miserable and alone, standing on a trashcan outside the jail looking in at the joyful party. At that moment, the audience can’t help but feel sorry for him as he secretly joins with the others, sorrowfully singing “Away in a Manger”. We get a glimpse that his tough exterior isn’t all that it appears to be. Ben is in fact, lonely. He’s especially reminded of this at Christmastime.
Ben takes a tumble on the not so sturdy trashcan in the alley behind the jailhouse. When Andy goes to check on the commotion he finds Ben sprawled out, hitting rock bottom. Exasperated and dumbfounded, Andy at first begins to lecture Ben until it occurs to him that he would do this on purpose. Could the town grouch really want to join in celebrating Christmas with others? Andy is filled with compassion and the episode ends with Ben “arrested” but not before he generously hands out presents to the other guests at the party. Like the audience, Andy finally understands what Ben wanted all along- to belong.
The universal message of needing to belong is what struck me. We all have a desire to be understood and accepted. God did not create us to live on our own tiny islands, but as a community, a family even. Every created person has a soul, and if nothing else we all have this in common. God enjoys fellowship within the Trinity, so why wouldn’t He fashion us to crave connection too?
Similar backgrounds, experiences, and interests are ways we connect to each other, but the one way that goes deeper than all the rest is a shared love and faith in Jesus. The Spirit knits are hearts together. I love getting to talk with another believer about the One we love most. It’s refreshing and encouraging knowing that I’m not alone. You don’t have to be alone either. Those who know the Lord as Savior belong in the same family. No matter what we look like on the outside or to the rest of the world- black or white, single mom or married, varying economic statuses- none of it matters when we are folded into the family of God.
We are not on the outside looking in; we are guests at the Christmas party! And when we see someone like the character Ben, on the outside longing to join, we can share the joy and hope we have with him or her. Jesus came as a baby so that you and I would never have to be alone. Jesus accepted us even after looking at our resume. Believers have the assurance of belonging – we get to celebrate Christmas all year round. We belong to a family that will never cast us out and will never end.