Away in a manager, no crib for His bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay,
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with you there.
Picturing Jesus as a baby boy wrapped in a manger often reminds me often what unconditional love really means. We often think of the unconditional love of a mother or a father when we think of unconditional love from God, but maybe that unconditional love is more like that of an infant. A little sleeping child loves so unconditionally and wholly because thoughts of anger and hatred have never even been processed by a baby’s infant mind. This is the pure, unconditional love of Jesus Christ, the love that never fails, that always comforts, and that we receive through the grace of God.
Loving and merciful God,
Thank you for your unconditional love and forgiveness, brought to us in your son, Jesus Christ. Though we may have days when love seems so hard, you guide us through these dark days to the light which is Christ’s love in our world. Help us to surround your children with the loving light of Christ this advent season.
You’ll notice a lot of hearts on them, as the kids were not just sending food, but love as well.
We know that food is not enough, money is not enough. It takes a human touch to make a difference. It takes the spark of Love in each of us, the image of God in each of us to make a difference.
And yet it makes us wonder . . . what was the stable like that day and night before Mary and Joseph arrived. What was the world like before Love took on human form?
Were there hopeless? Were there those who knew no peace? Was there sorrow that drowned out joy? Most likely there was, because there still is.
Yet we know that Love has come, God is with us, and when we take on the yoke of Love and do Love’s work, the world can never be the same.
Love is complicated and complex. One of the biggest Levitical laws is “Love your neighbor as yourself” and is attached to not holding grudges. A rabbinical story in the Book of Legends examines this command by saying that it is not enough to just act differently because we want to be seen as different, rather that if that is our reason for acting we are in fact guilty of holding a grudge for we see ourselves as hurt by another and better than them. Our call to love is not about being better or even being equal to another, but to see the world differently at its core.
The Rabbis continue to point to the idea that if we make a slight wrong, our actions should treat it as a serious offence against another, and when we do good, our actions should treat it as a trifle. Yet we should celebrate the slight good acts throughout the world as great things, and the great wrongs as mere trifles in our lives. We must set aside our own wishes in favor of other’s wishes. Not as martyrs, but as a way to see the world as cooperative not competitive.
Love is seeing others as equals regardless of station in life, without comparing ourselves to them. This is why our God who is Love instructs us to treat the outsider as the same as ourselves or any other. There is no difference in others, we are commanded nothing more in our personal interactions than to honor and love one another. This is from a God who comes to us not to be served, but to serve. This is our example, a God who reminds us that our actions and attitudes are connected, and actions will not change without changing how we see the world.
Love is not comfortable, it is not simply pity or benevolence, but a change in attitude where we see others as we see ourselves and thus see all as deserving the very best from God, this world, others, and especially from ourselves.
Giving & Loving God, may we not be comfortable until all are comfortable, may we not feel complete until your love is the only law we need. Help us to see others as you see them, images of you. Amen.
Advent reminds us that we have the opportunity to reflect the love and peace of Christ. In every life there are regrets – what my father used to call the ‘woulda, coulda, shouldas’. Honestly, in every day there are regrets! But the antithesis of regret is found in the birth of our savior. The gift of peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with others comes through our relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
Advent inspires us to recommit ourselves to what’s important. We can examine our hearts to conquer any lingering resentments or injuries (aka grudges) and give forgiveness. We can put a higher value on the comfort and happiness of others, rather than seeking personal attention and recognition. We can be generous with our gifts to those in need, understanding that we are stewards not owners of those gifts.
Advent celebrates new beginnings to do better, live more fully, and care more deeply. In this season of shorter days and longer nights, we can be lamps reflecting the light of God’s love in our forgiveness, mercy and compassion. We can make our hearts a place where the blessings of the Prince of Peace could live.
And if on this Christmas you want to help me,
Don’t be so concerned with the gifts `neath your tree.
Open that sack called your heart, and share
Your joy, your friendship, your wealth, your care.
Excerpt from “The Best Gift”
A poem by Betty Werth
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” –Hebrews 10:24-25
“God is a verb, not a noun,” said Buckminster Fuller with confidence. And my Aunt Alma and Uncle Mike spent a lifetime proving Bucky right.
Alma and Mike lived in N. Branch, Minnesota. Married for 60 years, she taught 2nd grade in North Branch for 40 years. He was a Lutheran Minister and the National American Foreign Legion Chaplain, offering many morning prayers in the U.S. Senate. 72 years ago he was with the first team into Hiroshima, ground zero. This experience and their Faith lead to lives devoted to their community, as I learned during a recent visit.
Wherever they went, peace and love went with them. Second Graders, now 30 years old, stopped Alma to share news of a baby or a new job. Families remembered Church events with Mike and others talked about losing a parent…or child. For fifty miles around, we could not walk through a store or restaurant without significant sharing. After several days of this, I mentioned that the town seemed to have a wonderful sense of community. Their reply showed me that this feeling was no accident.
Mike said, “Scripture supports that God is community. The day-to-day realities of dealing with each other in community, whether at the dinner table or the polling booth, are not, as we tend to think, secular experiences but really the stuff of Faith and Church.
Alma added, “We all know that God can never be fully understood. But God can be known and related to by us as a flow of relationships… as community. When we live in these relationships, God lives inside of us and we live inside of God.”
I am personally still working on all of this. But their living example of the Story of Immanuel has been a wonderful gift.