This is my last Advent post for 2019 and I decided to borrow the title from a song by a Christian group called Point of Grace. For their Christmas album, the group had written a song called When Love Came Down.
Point of Grace was big in the 1990s and until the mid 2000s. It was an all women group and had their own style. Oh, how I missed them.
I don’t know about you, but the good feelings and vibes and the parties during Christmastime is so fleeting. You get to a party at 6:30 PM and before you know it, it is 10:30 PM and it’s time to go home. The good food becomes a bad night of indigestion.
The Hallmark movies become predictable year after year, with the same casts in different roles and stories. There are endless re-runs of all the movies set during Christmas: Home Alone, Home Alone 2, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Christmas Shoes, and of course, Die Hard.
The gifts that were so much in demand and expected to arrive before December 25 becomes just another thing in the closet or on the shelf. Or if it is something to be used regularly, like a suitcase or a handbag, then it just becomes part of our routine.
Where is the true love at Christmas?
Christians call it the Incarnation. In the Apostle John’s letter in 1 John, he declares that God is love and the Greek word John uses is agape. Agape is the highest form of love.
In C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves, Lewis called agape Gift-Love contrasted with the other three phileia, eros, and storge – friendship, romance, and familial affection. Agape is the only one of the four which Lewis called “Need-Love”. Friendship, romance, and familial affection can be corrupted to become evil versions: criminal conspiracy, lusts, and abuse.
Many of us can attest to the loss of friendships and even betrayal. To realize that someone else was using you for whatever twisted game they have. Where was love indeed?
In the often quoted version you hear at weddings from I Corinthians 13:4-7 that begins “Love is patient, love is kind…” , we forget that the Greek word used is agape, not eros – the romance.
And the passage continues “…keeps no account of wrongs…” In other words, that’s forgiveness. I certainly don’t remember it in any of those Christmas movies. Generosity, yes, but forgiveness?
I remember watching A Charlie Brown Chrismas and the most pivotal point was when Linus answered Charlie’s question about what is the real meaning of Christmas.
Pastor Greg Laurie pointed artfully that the shadow of the cross loomed over the manger. This Savior and Messiah was not a political one. Jesus did not come to set up an earthly kingdom the first time he came. He did not call his followers to set up a socialist utopia as some assert. Rather, Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is near, that God wants to redeem mankind from spiritual slavery, and it will all be accomplished through Jesus’s death on the cross. He also asks his followers to do the same: to love one another and to die to the false self.
That’s scandalous to some and a stumbling block to others. You mean that the God of the universe, a marvelous, unknowable, transcendent being – chose to give up and be a filthy human? Yes. The current Queen Elizabeth II – when she was still Princess Elizabeth, she was an auto mechanic during World War 2. How many people can say they drove a truck repaired by their future sovereign? Jesus by trade was a carpenter on earth; how many people can say that their house was built by Jesus?
There are two miracles in Christianity that define us: the Incarnation and the Resurrection. To the secular materialist, both are impossible: a virgin birth and coming back from the dead. But if there is an all powerful God, both acts are just a Tuesday morning. It was love for us unlovable, almost unremarkable humans that Jesus came for us and died for us.
This Agape is more powerful that what you see on the movies, more pure than some who seem to reduce all love to the emotional, sexual level, and stronger than death. Agape is a love that does not demand anything in return. Jesus embodies this agape love.
I pray that this agape love fills you this Christmas season.