Thoughts on the passage:
Love is perhaps one of the most overused words in the our language. We use it to describe our feelings on the most trivial of things but also the most intimate. I love chocolate. I love it when it snows. I love my church. I love my wife. These are all true statements and yet in each one the kind of love that is being expressed is subtly different.
There is a website called Humans of New York. It is run by a man who travels, mostly around New York city, taking picture of people and telling their stories to the world. In those snapshots, we get candid and personal observations of these people and suddenly they become just that, people to us. They move out from our computer screens and into our hearts. What before was just a photo now becomes a living and breathing individual to us.
One of the tenets of the Christian faith is to love your neighbor. Christ is even clear that by neighbor he means, well, everyone. We are supposed to love everyone. There are two problems with loving everyone. The first is that it is hard because there are people in this world who are really hard to love. Dylann Roof, who was just found guilty in the Charleston church shooting is pretty hard to love. Bashar Al Assad, who is bombing his own people in Syria pretty hard to love. The other reason it is hard to love everyone is because everyone is so broad. I could show you pictures for hours of people in the world. You need to love all of them. That is the genius of Humans of New York. Suddenly it is a lot harder to not love these people once they become real to us.
The power of Christ’s birth comes from the same idea. It is a lot easier to talk about loving God when we know God. It is a lot easier to know God when we have an experience of God as a person. In the birth story in narrative they use the name Emmanuel for Christ. Emmanuel means God with us. When God is with us it is a lot easier for us to love God. Now God goes from being a distant force beyond our knowledge and our senses to something that is intimate, and real, something personal.
We need that kind of personal love in our lives. While that statement is true really in all times and all places, I feel it very acutely right now. So much of our world feels disconnected right now. Technology and culture allow us to live in separate worlds almost, surrounded by those people who are like us and able to avoid those who are strange and foreign. We can do so much on our own without others that we start to forget the importance of that connection, that need we have for a deeper love that is connected to those around us. Too many of us are disconnected and on our own. We need a God who is with us, who loves us, and who is like us.
The Christmas story is a story of love. When we talk about God so loving the world, it is not the broad and general term for “love” we often use. Instead it really is meant as a deep, intimate, and personal love. That love is so personal that God becomes human and is born so that God might be with us. That is the sort of love that the world needs. That is the sort of love we all need.
Questions to Ponder:
How would you describe your love for God?
How does Christ embody the name “God with Us” to you?
Who is someone you know who loves others in a way you would like to emulate?
God, be with us in this Advent season. May your spirit rest upon us that we might know your love. At those times that you feel distant, may Christ bring us closer to you. When we struggle to love others, help us to see you in their faces. Help us to love the world as you have loves us. Amen