1 Corinthians 1-8
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
The Advent Season has already paid homage to Hope and Peace. Today we focus on the gift of Love that the birth of the Christ offers.
Each year through the holiday of Christmas, God gives us another opportunity to apply our consciousness toward the Christ within. Through the birth of Jesus, and his subsequent willingness to claim his position in Spirit and to teach us what it means to be a child of God, we shape our relationship with Divinity. We can learn to see through the eyes of Christ, to hear as Christ hears, experience the peace and joy of Christ, and to love as Christ loved.
As Christ is reborn in the manger of our hearts each year, we can choose to focus on the wrapping of the gifts or the meaning and value of the gifts that are bestowed upon us.
Although the Christmas story is wonderful, in a sense, it is wrapping paper. It may be beautiful, but the true value of the story and of the birth is how we are changed by what that small baby brings to us. It’s not as important that the baby was born in a lowly manger as it is that Christ is born within us, and that we accept and cherish the gifts that we are given.
For me, this is the importance of Christmas, and this is where Advent helps our focus. To take the time to consider what Advent teaches is what brings meaning and power to Christmas. The lessons and gifts of Christ draw us ever closer to our Creator and Source.
To paraphrase a poem I found, Advent asks us to: Talk less, say more; Fear less, hope more; Stress less, be at peace more; Judge less; enjoy more; Hate less, love more; And all good things will be yours.
And above all the lessons that Christ came to teach, is that of love. In John 13:34 Christ says: “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, love each other.” For Christ, love is the foundational principle upon which all else is built. At every turn, regardless of the difficulty, regardless of the circumstance facing him, his message was always ‘love each other’. It may not have always been spoken in words, but it was resoundingly implied in everything that Christ did, said, or thought.
He healed out of love. He turned the tables over in the temple out of love. He prayed and taught and served out of love. He admonished us out of love. In Luke 21:34 he says: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.”
Jesus taught us to be ‘in this world but not of this world’. He understood the dangers of the world; the snares that each of us within this worldly existence face. He knew that the peace, joy, and love of God was always available within, yet there would be times when we would forget and allow our awareness to drift, and we would lose focus. At these times, he lovingly whispers to our heart of hearts, “Stay awake! Pray always. Be prepared. Awaken, and realize the gifts of love I bring so that you can share them with others.”
There have been, and will be uncomfortable, unusual, new or confrontational circumstances in our lives where we will consider our actions and reactions. There will be events in the world that cause us to react either automatically, or give us pause to consider – what should I think about this? There are instances when we ask ourselves, what can I do?
Let me tell you… Love pretty much covers it. Holding to a loving mindset, a loving heart, a loving attitude will just about handle every situation. It is the example that Christ came to share: love God with all your heart, mind and soul, love your enemy, love you neighbor as yourself, forgive others.
Our love expresses in so many beautiful ways: through our thoughts, our words, our attitudes, and our service and giving to others. Mother Theresa was asked how she could continue visiting the terminally ill, feeding them, touching them, wiping their brows, giving them comfort as they lay dying. And she said, "It's not hard, because in each one I see the face of Christ in one of His more distressing disguises."
Spirit asks us not to be full of ourselves, but full of Christ, and sometimes the love that Christ wants us to express is difficult. Forgive those who have wronged us. Turn our cheek when we are wronged. When we are robbed, offer them our coat as well. Part of loving is releasing the things of this world, even if it means laying down our life for another.
Still, if there is one lesson to be learned from the baby lying in the manger to the grown man hanging on the cross, it is to love each other.
Sometimes we read the beautiful words of Paul from 1 Corinthians and don’t really internalize them; we hear only the words and not the meaning behind the words.
Let me read them again from a more personal and current perspective:
If I decorate my house perfectly with nativity scenes, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family and others, I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family and others, I’m just another cook.
If I spend hours looking for gifts in stores and buying items online but do not have love for my family and others, I am just another shopper.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family and others, I gain nothing.
If I trim the tree with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing at the Christmas Eve service but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband and turns off the football game to help the wife. Love is kind, though sometimes harried and tired. Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t give anything at all.
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Long after the video game breaks, the pearl necklace is broken and lost, and the golf clubs are bent and tarnished, the sweet gift of love behind those gifts endures.
It is my prayer that we respond openly and enthusiastically to the spirit of Christ’s Love within us. I pray that through the power of this Love we will release our unwanted thoughts and the hold that the past might have on us. I pray that we allow the rebirthing of a baby within our hearts to radiate through our being and our lives, renewing us, transforming us, healing us, guiding and inspiring us.