This week, we lit the candle of Love in our Advent wreath. Last year I wrote about six forms of love here. This year we seem to need love, and I am struggling to find it any time I leave my farm.
The people are exhausted. They are oppressed. They are hated. They are waiting for someone to come and save them, to stick it to "the man." Some of this is their own doing, though it is hard for them to see it. Some of it is not.
They are waiting for a messiah. They expect him to come with full military regalia, riding a horse, or a tank, or down a golden escalator.
A baby is born to a young, unwed mother. She is poor, but she is devoted to God. The angels proclaim good news of great joy to the lowest of the low - shepherds. This isn't how the story is supposed to go! This can't be the messiah.
Oh, but it can.
We have remade God in our own image so often that we don't even recognize God anymore. Frankly, we don't recognize ourselves, either.
We ignore the God who loves us so much that he came down to live with people, in all our messiness and ignorance. We decide who Jesus was, and is, and ignore who Jesus really was, and is. We condemn those whose backs are against a wall because they are inconvenient.
Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his upper rooms by injustice;
who makes his neighbors work for nothing,
and does not give them their wages;
who says, “I will build myself a spacious house
with large upper rooms,”
and who cuts out windows for it,
paneling it with cedar,
and painting it with vermilion. (Jeremiah 22:13-14)
We have remade Jesus into a white, gun-toting paragon of masculinity, who will give us money for a 5-car garage and a private plane, because WE think that is who he should be.
We think we know what the Bible says, because someone else told us it does. We can no longer use the excuse that we aren't allowed to read it, or can't read it, because Bibles are everywhere now, and most of us can read, and if we can't it can be read to us.
We want our convenience. We want what we want, how we want it, when we want it. Nothing else will do. We want to believe we are right, and they are wrong. We want to be victims - and there are plenty of voices out there telling us we are or are about to be. Be afraid - be very afraid.
And every year, into our cold, angry, hurting world, comes a little baby.
A little baby who was not - who is not - what we expect.
A little baby who grows up to threaten the empire to the point that he is killed. A little baby who grows up to preach the love of God, as it really is, and loves the unlovable. A little baby who grows up to challenge the status quo, and the rich, and the powerful. "Give all you have to the poor," he says, and the man walks away, grieving (Mark 10:17-21). We want to believe that we are following God, but in reality, it is too hard. We don't want to give away anything. Instead, we cling to our arrogance, pride, selfishness, and victimhood.
The Messiah (remember, I am writing from a Christian perspective. My words apply even if you don't believe Jesus is the Messiah) came to us as a little baby. No preconceptions. No nationalism. No prejudice. Greedy only for his mother's milk, sleep, and the love of his parents. He grew up secure in the love of God.
I knew a pastor once who believed that sin was anything that separates us from the love of God. With that definition, the world is a sinful place indeed.
The world has told us that we are not good enough. We are too fat, too ugly, too poor, too boring, too feminine, too brown, too -- insert your own adjective here. The church has told us that God hates us - or at least hates them - because we (they) are sinners and are condemned to hell. What a great way to control us - threaten eternal damnation if we don't behave the way a certain "select" group of people tell us to.
Into this world comes a tiny baby. A tiny baby loved by God, by angels, by Mary and Joseph, by shepherds and by Magi. This tiny baby comes and asks us to let go of all the things that keep us from God.
God is in each of us. God loves each of us. We don't remember that because we are so busy listening to the voices of the world, but it is true. You - yes, YOU - were created by God in God's image, and God sees that you are good (Genesis 1:26-31). God wishes abundance for you.
And if God created you, loves you, and wishes abundance for you, then God wishes the same for each person you encounter, and each person you don't. God sent the Messiah in the form of a baby to demonstrate that "victory" is not in the ways of the world.
Jesus grew up and loved those who were "less than." Jesus loved those who were hated. Jesus loved those who reviled him - but he wasn't afraid to call them out for their transgressions, either. Jesus returned to being the vulnerable, poor little baby as he entered his ministry - except now he had a voice. He didn't need angels to speak for him - he spoke for himself.
If we don't listen to what JESUS is saying by reading the Bible and entering into a relationship with God for ourselves, we can't access the love of God. Love requires not making someone - including Jesus - into our own image.
Claim that love this Christmas. You are created by God and loved by God, no matter what someone else tells you. The love of God is present with you - it may be buried deep inside, but it is there.
What would Jesus do? Jesus would love you and expect you to love those around you. Put down your guns. Embrace your neighbor. Pray for your enemies. Accept the challenge of Christmas to love and be loved.
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55, NRSV)
The Mighty One (God) will bring the powerful down from their thrones of greed, power, and lust, and will lift up the lowly, so that everyone has enough - enough shelter, enough to eat and drink, enough health care, enough education, enough security, enough peace. If you are one of the powerful, imagine the peace of not having to worry about losing what you have. If you are one of the lowly, seize on the hope of having all you need. Imagine the joy of reuniting - all of us.
Feel the love God has for you - ignore the words of the world. God loves YOU. Share the love with all you meet - love is a renewable resource.
Image. holy-love.jpg (998×516) (thoughts-about-god.com). Accessed December 19, 2021.