This week, I’ve been thinking about love.
That is, I’ve been thinking what it means that God is love.
Silent night, holy night. Son of God, Love's pure light.
I’ve also been thinking about what it means for us to love.
People look east and sing today: Love, the Guest, is on the way.
I’ve been wondering what it means that God created us to love and showed us how to love selflessly, and that the testimony of Scripture absolutely never lets God’s own people off the hook when it comes to loving others.
And wonders of his love,
I don’t know, maybe it’s because you’re playing all the Christmas carols all the time on the piano, so our typical moratorium on Christmas music during Advent has been a little flexible.
and wonders of his love,
Or maybe it’s because in Advent we live in this already/not-yet time of believing Jesus came once as a baby and will come again at the end, and in the middle we get to be his Body, the hands and feet of Jesus, as I have maybe said once or twice or a thousand times. We get to do the works of love. We get to be love. We get to be Jesus to the world.
and wonders, wonders of his love.
Girls, I’m also thinking about love a lot because there is so little love coming across the news feed these days. There’s lots of talk about walls and rules and danger and fear. There’s lots of talk about systems getting abused and people not pulling their own weight. There’s lots of talk about guns and money and campaign promises and security and who is going to pay for what.
And into this, girls, we also proclaim that Love, the guest, is on the way.
Love, the Guest.
We’ve actually had a lot of guests in and out over the last two weeks. We made special treats for them. We sat out hot cocoa and coffee and made little signs about the heavy cream being in the frig. We turned on music, lit candles.
We made our space welcoming.
And of course we’re getting ready for overnight guests next weekend and then also the following weekend. Your dad washed the sheets. I made the bed. Tomorrow you’re going to pick up all your toys in the guest room. We took our guests’ preferences into account at the grocery store, as we planned our meals, as we thought about scheduling and logistics.
We want our guests to know they are welcome in our home.
But what does it mean to welcome capital-L Love as a guest? That’s part of what I’m thinking about.
God is love.
Love, the Guest, is on the way.
In addition to our normal Advent activities this year, we’ve been reading about work being done by our denomination’s missionaries all around the globe and right here at home. I picked up a booklet at church that is a year-long prayer initiative, and every day during meals, I try to read to you about a particular missionary family in a particular place doing particular work.
Given the worldwide refugee crisis, I shouldn’t be surprised at what I’m about to tell you, but I’ll admit I have been. Almost every single missionary we have read about–those in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, as well as those in Virginia and North Carolina and Texas–nearly every single one works with displaced peoples, refugee settlement and advocacy, building community with the least of these, for the least of these.
In this day and age, with millions of displaced persons around the globe, this is so obviously to me the work of the Gospel.
Every day, I am talking with you about immigrants and refugees. We talk about those who choose to move and those who are forced to move. We talk about why it’s hard for them to find new homes. We talk about some very big, very hard-to-understand issues. You ask a lot of good questions, and sometimes there are no good answers.
Every day, we are talking about how difficult it would be to have to move and restart our own life somewhere else.
We are praying for these displaced families, and for those who work with them, and when I hear your little voices pray for such big things, every day I can’t help but wonder, here in my own little world, in my own little town, in my own little house: what does it mean to love the least of these?
What does it mean to make space for Love?
What does it mean to live the Gospel?
And specifically, this week, what does it mean to love during Advent? What does it mean to love as we prepare for the coming of Jesus as a baby, and also the coming of Jesus at the end of calendar time?
Because that’s kind of the best thing about Advent: that it’s both. It’s what connects the last week of the church year–Christ the King–with the baby in the manger and with God’s plan of love from the very beginning.
Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” of course.
And the well-known refrain from the early church is right at the heart of all three “comings” of Advent:
Christ has come. Christ is coming. Christ will come again.
You know what God’s creation of the world teaches us? That Love is at the beginning of the story, searching for us, asking where we are when we most want to hide.
You know what God’s coming into the world as a most-vulnerable baby born to an oppressed people in the “fullness of time” teaches us? That God’s love is perfect.
You know what Christ the King Sunday taught us? That Love wins.
Love’s pure light was from the beginning.
The wonders of God’s love are echoing all around us.
Love will win.
Girls, it already is winning. I see it in you.
Turn off the news.