I have just about recovered from my two back surgeries and plan on returning to work tomorrow. In the last few weeks, my back was well enough for me to do some light work in my workshop building Christmas gifts. Here’s a few pics of the gifts I made.
Why We Need Tidings of Comfort and Joy
Today, this second Sunday of Advent, I listened to a sermon which gave voice to something I’ve bee thinking and feeling a lot lately:
I’m sick of living in this world.
I know that sounds negative and perhaps, makes you wonder about my emotional health and what kind of sermons I hear. But, I believe my reflections and the sermon’s arise from sound minds.
The sermon was an exposition of Isaiah 59:8-20 and this lyrical theme from the Christmas hymn O, Holy Night:
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining…”
I know most people don’t really believe in religious notions like sin. Most no longer believe that human error ascends to the level of offenses committed against an almighty, law-giving God.
But the Christian does.
The Incarnation: Somebody Loved You
A good friend who wanted some advice asked me this week how I handled Dawn’s struggles with anxiety and depression.
Without hesitation, I offered a one word answer: love.
What I Meant by That
I didn’t mean that I feel romantic, warm-fuzzy feelings for Dawn (though, I have them a-plenty) that counter-balance whatever personal loss I might experience (which, I don’t at all) by having her in my life.
I meant that I handle her issues by actively loving her. I think of love primarily as a verb – an action, a decision, a commitment; not as a noun – a feeling, a state of being. Our culture typically defines love as the happy, warm-fuzzy feelings another person makes us feel, or worse, as the erotic passion another person makes us feel. (Have you noticed that no one is pretty, or elegant, or handsome, or cute anymore? Everyone is “hot”? But I digress…)
A better, more biblical understanding of love is this: love is committing oneself to act in a way that benefits someone else. Take, for example, the story of the Good Samaritan. The hero in that story was the hero because he actively loved someone else.
Love is committing oneself to act in a way that benefits someone else.
What Love Can Cost
Noun-love is self-centered; verb-love is other-centered. It is costly to the self, though it often comes with personal rewards, too.
I try to love Dawn this way. I want my life to be a series of actions intended to make her life fuller. I admit though, that in my case there is so much I admire and enjoy about Dawn that my commitment to love her (it’s a verb) makes any personal cost I might experience invisible to me. I never feel like I’m losing anything. It’s easy to love her.
But what if she had less I could admire and enjoy about her? And, what if her “issues” were a thousand times worse? Would I still find it so easy to actively love her? Would I be as committed to her welfare?
All I can say is, I hope so. I’m only an average man. I have issues, too – pretty complicated, nasty, ugly ones, actually. As a result, I probably don’t have the capacity for great, great love. I would need to tap into Someone else’s supply.
What God Meant by That
And that brings me to why I’m writing today. My friend’s question reminded me how wonderful it is that God wasn’t content to feel a cosmic warm-fuzzy toward me. Instead, He loved me so as to benefit me, in spite of my issues, and He never gave the cost a second thought. The incarnation of His Son was an infinitely costly, supreme act of love toward an unremarkable me. That act of love will ultimately free me from my issues, and empower my own capacity to love Him and others.
God looked down on me and you, a mass of average people with nothing admirable to recommend us, and He verb-loved us anyway…
with the best He had to offer.
How has God’s verb-love made a difference in your life?
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