“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God. (Luke 1: 46-50 CEB)
This fourth Sunday of Advent we pause to reflect upon the love of God. Mary responds to her cousin Elizbeth’s greeting with the above words. She is giving life to the One who will give life to the whole world. It must have been a strange feeling to know you are participating in the work of God: Giving birth to the Savior and carrying your beloved child. A blessing and burden that would one day pierce her heart. But out of love and obedience, she said yes to God.
However, Jesus is not just her Son, and this is not just a celebration of her love: It is a celebration of God’s love for us. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.”
John 3:16 CEB. Both God and Mary are on the journey of giving up something precious to the whole world.
Though love is certainly something we feel, it is far more than that. It is something we do: Love is a verb! In the Great Commandment, we are told to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. And in the one attached to it we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love is something we do. It is a commitment we live out in actions. We see Jesus do this as he prepares to face his arrest and crucifixion in John’s gospel. In washing the disciple’s feet in chapter 13, he concludes by telling the disciples (and us) to do as he has done. He goes on to say, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”
(John 13:34-35 CEB) I invite you to continue reading through the 17th
chapter. There are so many passages lifting up God’s love for us and for the world, but none better than 1 John 4:8, “The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love.” I know God has a warm feeling for us, but God’s love is so much more than that. In Jesus, God reveals what real love is, an action, a commitment he lives out in the world. All who would receive the Christ child, are commanded to live, and love in this way.
One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “Love Came Down at Christmas” by Christina Rossetti #242 TUMH. I invite you to listen to it or maybe even sing it. It is our closing prayer. Especially the third verse:
Love shall be our token; love be yours and love be mine;
Love to God and neighbor, love for plea and gift and sign.
As we prepare for this last week of Advent, we prepare to receive the gift of the Christ. In return let us bring to the manger our love, an action, a commitment we live out in the world. Like Mary, we are so loved, so blessed, and now sent to give this gift in the world.