We are made by Love,
because of love,
for the sake of love,
so that we may love in return.
That’s about as good a summary of our creation – our reason for existence – as I can imagine.
The depth of Christmas – the story of God’s love made flesh, is so often buried in the busy-ness, and the business, of the season.
Jesus is not only the ultimate expression of love, He is The Word showing us that being human is a good thing – our Lord, our God, our Creator, embodied love in a baby laying in a manger, and, in a man hanging from a cross.
It means that we are not inherently evil. We are fundamentally good — not only for God to continuously work to save us as is the story of Scripture, but good enough that God would wear humanity, and all that comes with it.
Our humanness is not something God needs to experience — it is something WE need to know that God experienced.
As Jesus forgave his executioners even as they saw no need of forgiveness, so He forgives us our weaknesses as we seek His mercy — the same weaknesses that He himself experienced.
“For the high priest we have is not incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us, but has been put to the test in exactly the same way as ourselves, apart from sin. Let us, then, have no fear in approaching the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace when we are in need of help.”
We know our weaknesses all too well; we see ourselves as unworthy all too often.
We condemn our flesh, our compulsions, and in doing that, we condemn ourselves.
We deny ourselves so that we may bring our physical wants into submission. We pray for some measure of humility to come with it.
God does not condemn us in our weakness. God, as God always does, sees beyond our frail humanity, and sees God’s creation – and loves it, continuously, relentlessly, over and over and over again. God redeems us – all of us.
Experience has shown me that God is so often the opposite of what we expect, what we would do, and what we would believe. God repeatedly sent His Prophets, and ultimately Jesus, to steer us back onto the right path.
From God’s birth into humankind in a stable whose first visitors were the simple (and note: ritually “unclean”) shepherds, to Jesus’ crucifixion without rescue by power and might, and in all points between, God demonstrates that we are created to give away what we have been given. Our greatest gift is love.
It has been said that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual being having a human experience (Teilhard de Chardin). God continues to help us through our human experience.
Yet, it is so difficult for us to see; so hard to accept.
We know too well the mountain of evidence against us. We struggle with our weaknesses and our compulsions, and so often lose. We grapple with what we know we should do yet fall short of our good intentions.
Despair comes too easily, especially during joyous seasons like Christmas. Those of us who have lost loved ones, especially in this past year, are reminded, as if we need reminding, of the hole in our hearts by the empty chair at our table. We are not only saddened, but sometimes devastated.
The sadness is not something as much to be overcome as it is to be experienced and worked through.
It is not to be denied in the hope that time heals all wounds; it is to be acknowledged and experienced.
It is not to be covered up by activity and distraction in order to dull our senses. The loss hurts and its ache cannot be denied.
We cannot deny it. We cannot submerse it. We cannot reverse it. We can only work through to rise above it. Fighting reality is always an exhausting, and finally, a losing proposition. Grief is a process.
Sometimes we stand in a darkness so thick and so black that it hurts. Our loneliness so deep that no matter how close those who remain to love and comfort us are, no matter if they stand beside us and embrace us, our reach for them somehow falls short.
This is the reality of loss; it is the darkness of grief; the beast of depression.
God is not unaware of it – God has experienced it.
God’s experience was not for God’s sake so that God could “learn and see” what it’s like. It was for our sake so that we could know that God experienced it and does know what it means to be human.
We are not alone. We are never alone. It is only our senses that are not always able to perceive. Our feelings are very real to us, but they are not always reality.
We speak of believing in God; God became human because God believes in us.
Through Jesus, we know it is good to be human.
Through Jesus, we know that death is not the end.
Through Jesus, resurrection is the promise – redemption of all, with all, in God.
The point of the Incarnation – the reason God became human… to show us what Love is:
To show us God’s love.
To show us how to love.
To show us God will never give up on us.
To show us that there is nothing God will not do to bring us closer to God.
To show us that death is not the end.
To show us that we are not ever left to flounder on our own regardless of how black the darkness hurts – God is in that darkness even though our reaching to God seems to fall short to our senses; God’s reach to us never falls short.
Advent begins the Church year as we anticipate The Incarnation; it begins what the Eastern rite refers to as our divinization – the never-ending process of growing in the love Jesus lived and taught; growing closer to God as love grows in us… as God grows in us.
I John: 4-15, tells us that God…IS…love.
As love grows in our hearts, God grows in us.
We see baby Jesus, innocent and vulnerable in the manger, and joyfully celebrate His birth.
Jesus carries that innocence and vulnerability to the Cross. We see God’s love demonstrated for us, and we sadly mourn His death.
Yet, it is the…
Incarnation that says ‘yes’ to humanity,
Crucifixion that says ‘yes’ to death;
Resurrection that says ‘yes’ to new life.
None are possible without the other.