Each week, four leading up to Christmas, we pause to remember the advent of Jesus. In some households a candle is lit for each of the advent themes…this week we consider Love.
Love. It should be the easiest to write about of all the advent themes, and yet for the last few years it has been one of the more challenging. I actually have been writing this post off and on for days. For those of you who know me, it will not surprise you to learn I had amassed over 800 words about love. I rose early to finish the tome and wrap it up in some sort of neat phrase or top it with a scripture, like a bow on a gift….instead, I erased it all. As I sat with coffee in hand, my mind had wandered to a casual conversation I’d had recently. It was the sort of conversation that begins with a type of apology/affirmation before it rolls out some sort of negative comment or judgment. It went a little like this, “ You know I love you, but, (insert the behavior I wished changed).” It occurred to me that this is a phrase I will never hear from God. Suddenly all my previous words seemed inadequate when I thought about the importance of that missing “but”.
I know He loves me. I know that I celebrate Christmas because of the evidence of His love in sending His Son. Christ came to take on my sin, to redeem me, a salvation that is brimming with abundant grace. This is love.
Oh how easily He could say, “I love you, but you need too….”, “I love you, but this needs to happen…”, “I love you, but not like you are…”, yet He does not. Instead God offers us a love that says, “I love you even though…”
“…God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8)
This is LOVE. It is grace, undeserved forgiveness and favor. Yes, He wants us to love others, yes He calls us to follow His commandments, yes He desires us to live in a way that is pleasing to Him, for this is also for our benefit…yet His love does not depend on those things.
Today, I am thinking about the missing “but“. No doubt my continued struggles with the flesh must disappoint, sadden and exasperate Him…How relieved I am at the certainty that He is not shaking His head in the heavens and sighing “I love you, but…” Instead He is shouting “I love you”. It is a “no buts about it” kind of love…in every breath, in the beauty of His creation, in the canopy of stars, in the roar of the wind and waves, in chaos and in stillness He is shouting “I love you”. May we welcome His proclamation of love and accept the gift of His forgiveness through Jesus Christ His son.