This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. [John 3:16-17 (MSG)]

nativityWe’re one week into Advent—our time of preparing for the coming of Christ. While we’re busy thinking about gifts and struggling to find the perfect one for everyone on our list (gifts cards, when in doubt), Advent reminds us to think about the gifts we received when Jesus came to us: hope, love, joy and peace. Although the observation of Advent has no Biblical mandate and its traditions vary throughout various denominations, many churches observe this season with an Advent wreath. At my northern church, last Sunday’s candle was the Prophet’s Candle, the candle of hope. Yesterday’s candle was the Bethlehem Candle, the candle of love. It was on that holy night in Bethlehem long ago that love took human form. When thinking about this gift of love, the words of Christina Georgina Rossetti’s beautiful carol come to mind. “Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, Love divine; love was born at Christmas, star and angels gave the sign.”

In this Advent season, let us reflect upon the love of a God who was unwilling to give up on us, his sinful rebellious children—the love of a God who sacrificed his only Son for our salvation. A baby, born in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago, redeemed us with His own blood. God loved us enough to become flesh and blood, not so that He could be with us, but so that we could be with Him! He truly was “love incarnate, love divine.”

It’s been pointed out that, while it’s easy to believe in Christmas and even easier to celebrate it, it’s much harder to live Christmas. Heavenly Father, thank you for the Christmas gift of love. Help us keep your love in our hearts. May we show that love in our words and actions, not just in this season of preparation, but all year long.

Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present. An old abbot was fond of saying, “The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.” The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all. [Edward Hays]

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love! [1 John 4:7-12 (MSG)]

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