Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Advent 2013, Week 4: Love for the World, and for Me

On this last Sunday before Christmas, Pastor Allan lit the fourth candle and said that today we would talk about Love.

But we wouldn't waste our time on the "Man, I love pizza!" or "I just love walking in the snow on a quiet moonlit night ..." kind of expression by which we have diluted the meaning of the word.

In these troubled times of war, famine, flood, cancer, abuse, disease, homelessness, anger, loneliness, depression - we could go on and on - we often lose sight of the fact that God is a loving God.

But God does love us. God is love, and everything He does - or allows to happen - is based on that love. John chapter 3 and verse 16 says that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

When God loves, He takes action. His love is not based on an emotional response that could change by the next day

The gospel written by Matthew, chapter 1 and verses 18 - 25 never mentions the word love in it, but it is the story of Joseph who loves first God, and then Mary, the young woman to whom he is betrothed. Joseph's love came at a high cost to himself: he would have been scorned for the rest of his life as the cuckolded husband. But because of love, he did exactly what the angel said and married Mary, raising Jesus as his own son.

Pastor Allan pointed out that God's love is not exclusionary; John 3:16 says that God love the world - everyone. Anyone who believes on Him, regardless of background, is welcomed by Him.

The Lord Jesus Christ came to die for the whole world, Pastor Allan went on; "but He would have done the same thing if it had been just me." 

I was sitting with this thought as I went to sleep on Sunday night. And it was illustrated for me so perfectly the very next day, through another Allan.

My brother has been doing some renovations for me, and everything was accomplished with his usual precision, attention to detail, and distinctive eye for the beauty that can be found in the mundane. I couldn't have been more pleased with the result.

But after lunch, when I was cutting up a pan of Norma's inimitable Rice Krispies squares for dessert, I sliced the tip of my thumb fairly deeply. "Ahhhhhh!" I cried out.

Then from the table came "Karyn!" - my name from my brother's lips uttered with such concern, such immediacy, such anguish, such deep love. I have heard that exact sound only once before in my life ...

... and it was also from my brother, and it was the morning of September 11, 2001. I had been working in Ottawa the night before and was due to fly in late September 10. There had been various issues with the plane but we finally made it to Calgary in the early hours of the morning, over four hours late.

I was in my house getting ready for the day when the phone rang. "Hello?" I answered, all unaware of how the world was changing.

"Karyn!" My brother's voice filled my ear, and then he burst into tears. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay, that you had gotten home okay ... I love you."

And on this past Monday afternoon, with blood dripping from the gash on my thumb and Allan's exclamations echoing in my head and heart, I completely understood what it meant that Jesus loves me. I could hear Him saying my name with even more intensity, more love, more depth of concern, than my brother had.

More than from his perfect workmanship, more than from everything else he has done for me over all these years - and it's been a lot - when he said my name in that particular way, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt Allan loves me; and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me. Love forces action; the love of God for us - for me - compelled Him to send His Son to effect reconciliation between a righteous God and unrighteous humankind.

If we love God, Pastor Allan went on, we too will be forced to love others as well. Jesus' commands were very simple: "Love the Lord your God; love your neighbour." It isn't possible to accomplish the second without experiencing the first. The Greek word ἀγάπη ("agape" pronounced agápē) came into use during the establishment of the early Christian church, denoting Christian love or charity not looking to advance its own ends but a reflection of God's love for us - a perfect love because it was not only voluntary but also unconditional. It was a sacrificial love so radical, so different, that it caused people to give up their wealth, their possessions, even their lives. The second-century Tertullian wrote in his Apology 39:  "What marks us in the eyes of our enemies is our loving kindness. 'Only look,' they say, 'look how they love one another.' " 

This Christmas season marks the greatest love of all, that God sent His Son - knowing full well the horrors of what would come 33 short years later when He was crucified - for all of us.

For Karyn.

1 comment:

  1. So beautiful. Oh, how He loves you and me - and how Allan does, as well. We know it, for sure.


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