Christmas is coming, and we need to talk about love.
It seems easy, at this time of year, when my house is slung with cheerful decorations and twinkling lights, when I’m wrapping up gifts and singing soft Christmas lullabies to my babies as they fall asleep each night;
it seems easy to know what love looks like.
Isn’t that love there, flickering in the pooling wax of advent candles? Listen, it’s there, in the reverent strains of O, Holy Night, The Stars So Brightly Shining.
Isn’t love so pretty at Christmas?
But real Love? The kind that builds us up, brick by sturdy brick, the kind that doesn’t make sense, the kind that never gives up?
Real love isn’t always pretty. It’s not always easy or comfortable or found in the warm glow of holiday nights.
Sometimes, love is uncomfortable.
Sometimes, love is inconvenient.
Sometimes, love can even look downright unholy. The Bible is full of stories that are full of the kind of uncomfortable love that makes us cringe and look away, because it’s just too complicated and inconvenient to try and understand.
The Israelites spent 40 years wandering in a desert… that’s love?
Hosea marries a prostitute and welcoming her back again and again and again… that’s love?
Even in the opening lilt of “Away in a Manger, No Crib for a bed,” we are handed the uncomfortable picture of a baby born in the barest of circumstances, welcomed to the world on the dirty floor of a dirty stable.
Why does this holy love look so,
unpolished? humble? even foolish?
In this Advent season, as we pause and reflect on the coming of our Savior, let us revel in the strange and surprising love illuminated by His birth.
Love is a scared young mother in Bethlehem, arched in pain as she labors with the bloody birth of the Christ Child, giving herself over to the Task at hand.
Love is a nervous father, called to carry the Holy Burden of marrying this pregnant teen before him and calling the son she bears, his own.
Love, Emmanuel, God with Us, left Heaven and came to earth,
on a journey from an all-mighty kingship, to helpless body of a baby.
Love came down because Love didn’t mind
our dirty hands and our broken hearts.
Love came down because HE WANTED YOU.
He knows you, He sees you, He heard you, and yes yes a million times yes-
He. Wants. You.
Born without a bed. A man without a home.
Infant in a crude and simple manger,
teacher hung on a crude and simple cross to die-
His life? Was uncomfortable.
His love? Is transformative.
It’s a moment of crisis. A tilting, hinging fulcrum in time, a grip on your heart so great that you can take or leave it
but His Love cannot be ignored.
We know what real love is because Jesus gave his life for us. And there is no greater love than this, than he who lays down his life for his friends…
and, dare we say it?
This inconvenient, unholy thought on the holiest days of our winter season…
love laid down his life-
for his enemies.
This messy, Perfect Love goes slogging through the worst of times.
When the mud is deep. When the edges are frayed. When the frame on which you’ve built your very life has snapped beneath you:
This Strange Love presses on.
Love came down into our darkness and shone a great light.
Love came down into our darkness.
Love came down.