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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Love: Reflections for Advent, Week 4

"We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others."
-St. Clare of Assisi

One candle for hope… another for peace… a third for joy… and then, as is so often the case, a fourth candle shines brightly, bringing this advent season full circle… back to the beginning, back to the foundation of all things… love.

God has always had so much hope for humanity—so much faith that we might join in the work of redemption.  In a letter, Paul describes the gospel of God as:

“The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures…” (Romans 1:2, NIV).

There is great risk involved, because God enters into covenant with a people who may not uphold their end of the deal.  God asks impossible things of God’s people.  We don’t need to look much further than, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son” (Isaiah 7:14, NIV), to know this is true. 

Impossible… and yet it happens…

Love, on the whole, is so impossible, beginning with the very way we define it.  We don’t have enough words.

I love my kids… and pizza… and Walt Disney World… and my husband… and books… and a good bubble bath… 

I love coffee… and my friends… and drinking coffee with my friends…

I love God.  God is love.  So, I love love.

Do you remember that part when you were in middle school and love was confusing, but you knew it would get easier when you grew up?  Yeah… it doesn’t actually work that way.

I have a great appreciation for the Greek language, which at least gives us something more to work with.

I agape and storge my kids.  As they get older, I philia them, as well.  I eros my husband.  I philia my friends.  The more I consider the definitions available for all of these kinds of love, the more I wonder if we can truly love things, at all.

I think I may need to alter my thinking, because the truth is I probably only like chocolate and the ocean and glitter.  Wow.  Mind blown.

But which love is God?

The temptation is to raise our hands, shouting, “Pick me!  Pick me!  God is agape!”

God is unconditional love.  God is a love of well wishing and benevolence and even a love that remains constant when unrequited.  Yes.  Certainly.  But perhaps we do not give God enough credit for being love in all its various forms.

In the advent story, Jesus, coming as the Messiah in the form of a vulnerable baby, might best embody what it is to love—what it is to be love.  God, as Jesus, is the ultimate example of what it means to love without control, from the first breath.  Newborn babies can’t do anything for themselves!  They are completely dependent on the mercy, grace, and love of others.  Completely.  If Mary says no…  If Joseph says no… If the innkeeper or, later, the magi say no…  we have a completely different outcome, friends.      

Love is risky.

Because it’s just like God to do things this way.  God calls to God’s people, “Who will participate in the redemption of the world?  Who will join me in bringing the fulfillment of the covenant?”

Matthew 1:22-24, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).  When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him…” (NIV).

Sigh of relief…

May we also wake up.

Do this.  Say yes.  Join the circle of lights shining brightly, bringing close to the world the promised redemption that is so near we might reach out and touch it, if only we will commit to being a part of the salvation narrative. 

John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (NIV).

Jesus was vulnerable.

Be vulnerable.

Jesus is love.

Be love.

As God’s people, this is the greatest thing to which we are called.  It’s not hard to find people who need love.  They are all around us.  By completing the advent cycle, bringing to fruition the love that is so desperately sought by all, we may envelop the hurting world with the light and life that comes as we await the arrival of Christ just a little longer.   


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