December 19, 2021
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 1:39-55
I assigned myself a task too big for one human to tackle. Four weeks ago, I decided to follow the themes of Advent – the four themes we consider EVERY Advent: HOPE – PEACE – JOY — and LOVE. Each one of those is a topic way too big to imagine having anything wise to say about! And especially the topic of today: LOVE.
Advent is almost over. The waiting is almost done. The main event of the season is just about upon us! The anticipation increases as the time draws nearer and nearer! Maybe you have sort-of outgrown that eager anticipation and excitement, but you surely can remember it! That eager anticipation is a part of the common language of the whole world! Even if it isn’t put into words, we can’t help showing it in our eyes and our hearts:
- Like the look in a child’s eyes as they creep down the stairs at 5:00 am on Christmas morning in their P.J.’s filled with hope.
- Like the gardener who goes out into the mulch-covered yard in April and pulls away the surface full of hope remembering the bulbs tucked into the soil last Fall – hoping almost beyond hope to see a sturdy, green sprout pushing its way through the cold ground.
- Like the groom who waits at the altar for the love of his life to appear through the back doors of the church as the organ begins to play the stately wedding march.
- Like shepherd who leave their flocks in the fields to make their way in the early morning darkness toward a particular stable in Bethlehem because they have just seen a brilliant light in the heavens and an angelic invitation: “You will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
For each of those and many more, hope for something better – something that stirs our souls and makes us glad to be alive STILL LIVES WITHIN US in spite of the pandemic, the proliferation of hatred and injustice, and in spite of storms and death itself, we make our own way with the shepherds through the tangles, the rocky pathways and the rugged descent toward some PROMISE that it will surely be BETTER ONE DAY. Maybe this is the time! Is this the One we’ve been waiting for?
As we travel toward our own Bethlehem, we sing with all the hope we can muster: “We shall overcome some day! I do believe!” Hope and anticipation is inextinguishable! It’s that hope, that Advent taps into – not just for the church, but for the world.
And what do we see when we follow our star and peer into the ancient barn? What is this promise we are almost ready to unwrap? What is this for which we have waited and longed for, for so long? What is it that God has wrapped with such attention to detail with us in mind? What is this gift that has our own name on it – something for me?!
I’m here to tell you that it may not be what you had expected! It is NOT some new gadget or technological wonder. It is not some gift of fame that puts your name in lights for the rest of your life. It is not some pot of gold and the end of a fanciful rainbow. It is something so much better and so much more complex and wonderful
Here it is! Wrapped so shabbily in the most unexpected surroundings. Here it is! Wait for it!
IT IS THE GIFT OF LOVE FROM NONE OTHER THAN THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE!
It is LOVE looking for all the world like a little baby!!
It is unexpected LOVE, coming from one who is certainly not like us!
It is undeserved LOVE, but extravagant and free when we thought we would never know love again.
It is abundant LOVE, more than we ever could imagine and more than we could ever use. Enough to give away.
It is extravagant LOVE, priceless and yet universally available.
It is LOVE FOR YOU
- who have felt cheated of love over and over again
- who have been convinced that you are undeserving
- who have felt you had to hoard every last trickle of love to keep for yourself. You now have enough to share.
- who have been told you are unlovable. No strings attached
It is exactly here that I feel so inadequate and at a loss for words. Christina Rosetti must have been struggling with just this when she wrote that short but profound hymn in 1885: “Love Came Down at Christmas.”
It seems we ought to be able to say it bigger with a drum roll or big lights, but everything falls short! God has tried to say it in so many ways so that creatures like us could really understand. It’s about love!
That’s what Christmas is about! That’s what Good Friday and Easter is about! That’s what Beloved Community is about! It is what the whole of our job description as Christians is about! It is the summary of all we have to offer the world!
It’s all about love! “Who wants to be a millionaire (or a billionaire”) indeed! Given the choice, who wouldn’t choose love! It is the gift of Christmas, my friends! We are rich! Unthinkably rich!
Go tell it on the mountain! Don’t try to hoard it, because there is more than enough to go around. Pass it out! Love freely. Ask for nothing in return! Put no conditions on your love. Be a part of that crazy bunch on the corner of Walnut and Canal who HAVE LOVE TO SPARE!