As we conclude our series on "sharing a Life-giving Christmas," let me ask how Advent has been going for you?
Where and how have you seen hope in this season?
When and how have you felt God’s presence give you peace in this season?
When and how have you felt joy in the past few weeks?
Today our attention is turned to love. As the scripture affirms, and as I believe we know deep within our hearts, without love we are nothing.
The Gospel According to John, points to and sums up the centrality of love being at the core of God’s purpose for the birth of Jesus Christ. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son . . ." (John 3:16)
And Matthew describes the conception and birth of Jesus, born of God’s love and Mary’s desire to serve the Lord with love. . . . And Joseph’s good heart and humble obedience to God’s will at least in part made him the one God chose to be the earthly father of Jesus.
When we think about a Life-giving Christmas, one which describes for us the very essence of life, we can not forget or omit love. It is something essential to the human psyche and soul.
Yet we know that it is experienced in many forms and types of relationships. And at this time of year especially, there are many expectations of love associated with those relationships.
When we make or fulfill Christmas wish lists, we should remember the one thing which everyone truly needs – LOVE!
>> Love . . .gotta have it – both for ourselves and to share it with others.
From the time we are greeted at the door, to the time we leave, our experience at church, in the body of Christ, is meant to be a sharing in the Life-giving love of Jesus. And when we go forth from this place into our homes, or into the world, we carry forth that Spirit of Christ’s love with us. . . in our hearts and in our lives.
As you may recall from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 13:1-3), he puts the priority of love very well. Paul goes on to give perhaps the best description of love found in the bible or anywhere else.
And in his letter to the Christians in Rome, he writes (12:9-13):
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly (and sisterly) love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality."
All of which is good advice to any who wish to experience a life-giving Christmas – and even beyond.
So when you may find your yourself stretched to the limit, remember God’s love for you in Christ Jesus. When you feel your patience wearing thin at home, on the road, in the stores or elsewhere, remember God’s loving patience for you and for others. When the voice of doubt and judgement leads you to believe the worst in someone, listen to the voice of God’s love and grace instead. When you see someone in need, or hurting and alone, open your heart to receive them in the spirit of God’s love.
How will you seek to do these things?
Be open and responsive to God’s word, as Mary and Joseph were.
And as Paul wrote:
"May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you." (1 Thess. 3:12-13)