Light of Love

The fourth candle of Advent is the candle of love. I would like to share some reflections on love. My intention is that my words will not only help you celebrate the Advent season, but live the season deeply and bring it into the New Year.

We’ve looked at hope, peace and joy. We have seen that they go together that they are very important to our faith journey. We now come to love. Love has many meanings and while I cannot go into all them here, love is something we all want and seek. Love is the single emotion and experience that we crave. We were created to be in relationship with God and others and love should be the basis of all our relationships. Most, maybe I could even say all my posts have something to do with love. Either I am calling us to be more loving, to being the love we seek, or trying to describe love. John 13, Romans 13, Galatians 5, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 1, and 1 John 4 tell us to love one another.

When we light the candle of love, we are saying that love will guide our way through life that we want to express and extend the same love that Jesus has shown us. We are saying that we intend to let love shape our life. Love is a response to God’s prior activity. It is a way of living that is expected of Jesus followers. We are not only to love those who love us, but also to show love to everyone regardless of who they are, maybe we should love the unlovable more so. The teachings of Jesus on love of enemy, part of the Sermon on the Mount should be what Christians are known for. When someone describes a Christian, love should be a primary characteristic. Sadly this is not so.

Love starts with God and everyone who loves is a child of God. Not everyone is a child of God only those who show love for others are included in the family of God. Those who do not love cannot know God, because God is love. To love is to know God. God is creator, sustainer, and source of love. Love is a gift from God. God showed his love among us. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, to show love to everyone. It’s by our love that we are followers of Jesus. If we claim to love God, yet hate a brother or sister, we are a liar. Anyone who does not love brother and sister, who they see cannot love God, who is not seen. Anyone who loves God must also love brother and sister. (See 1John 4:7-12, 20-21)

God loves me as I am, but loves me way too much to leave me that way. He loves each of us with this awesome personal love. This transforming personal love is the heart and soul of the universe. I am with Brennan Manning when he writes, “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” Sometimes, I am assaulted by the love of God. I will be walking down the street, browsing at the city library, writing my blogs, or talking with someone and this overwhelming sense of being loved by God will smack me between the eyes. Even in my most dark and depressive moments I feel loved by God. This presence of love is inescapable. Sometimes I must stop and just revel in the goodness inherent in the universe. In these times the sure saving knowledge that the universe is conspiring for my good or to put it in more biblical language God is good and with God all things are possible.

Lighting the Advent candles should help us to reorient ourselves to these four important ideals. They should help us to remember what the Christian life is about and what we want our lives to express. They are a way of grounding us in the true meaning of this season and helping us to direct ourselves for the New Year. I have reflected on these candles because I have a hard time with these ideals. My life seems out of balance. I lack peace, hope, joy, and love. I am not asking for pity, others have it much harder than I do. Just this very day, I learned from one of my friends that someone close to her committed suicide. I tried to be present to her grief and offer her helping hand. I was not all that sure what to say. I hope just by being there for her that I helped.

I want my life to be filled with peace, hope, joy, and love. I want to be at peace to be hopeful for what life has to have to offer, live a joyful and loving life and help other to do the same. Yet, I suppose the old adage is true when we pray for peace, hope, joy, and love God doesn’t implant them into us, but gives us moments to build them into our character. After all Stephen King was right when he had Mother Abigail in The Stand say, “God doesn’t call us cabs, but gives us His strength.”  It’s not cabs we need it is the strength for the journey that we really seek.

Love is regard for the other person and causes to treat others how we would like others to treat us and not make a tally of all the things we do for and ask that they repay us. Love is not about us but the other person. We all want to be loved, but how often are we willing to love the other person not just for who they are or what they have done for us, but in spite of their faults love them for love’s sake. This is not just about romance or getting sex or anything else. It’s a response to life, a way of living your choice to follow Jesus in a concrete real life way.

Henri Nouwen in The Return of the Prodigal Son writes, “For most of my life, I have struggled to find… to know… to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair. Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not ‘How am I to love God?’ but ‘How am I to let myself be loved by God?’

We all waste time in finding God not knowing He was there already. It just takes eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to touch, and feet to move. Our hearts and souls are closed to God and we think we must do something to make ourselves presentable to God before we can approach God. We miss the really good news—God loves us, as we are, but way too much to leave us that way.

Many of us have a hard time accepting we are loved. This can be much harder to accept than it is to be a loving person. We see our faults too much and question how anyone let alone God, the almighty creator and ruler of the universe could possibly love us. We think that if we do this or that or don’t do this or that we’ll be lovable and right in the sight of God. That’s a lie! The truth that we have a hard to time accepting is God loves us, no strings attached. God loves us and even more likes us and wants us (doesn’t need us) to be in relationship with Him and His kingdom. God created us to be in relationship with Him and his Kingdom.

I pray for you, dear reader the same thing that I pray for myself in this coming year that my life will be full of the peace, hope, joy, and love of God. I hope these Advent reflections have helped you celebrate and perceive the true meaning of this season.

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