I have read many things recently about books and seminars and videos and ways of "doing" church that have effectively inoculated people against the Gospel ... and I believe it--particularly since love is the key element in the story of the Gospel--God's love for humanity.
From my perspective this is the gradual result of folks forgetting (failing to realize?) the very purple nature of love.
Somewhere in the rush to embrace self-love as Lord of Life (HT to Eugene Peterson's fabulous Eat This Book! pp. 31-35), we have replaced submission to the Holy Trinity for our spiritual formation with embracing the divine self and its highly individualized triune expression: my Holy Wants, my Holy Needs, and my Holy Feelings.
It is the gift of free will gone bad. We have focused so long on choosing for ourselves what is best for us that we have become overwhelmed with options ... while missing the truth: it is not all about us!
This love, that comes from God in the form of a babe, is purple because it sacrifices self in order for the best interest of the beloved to be realized. This is the primary definition of the Hebrew concept of cHesed--to faithfully serve the other.
The catch is in the understanding of "best interest." Who knows what is best for us? Our culture would tell us that only we know what is best for ourselves. But this is where knowledge is not equal to wisdom. Because we rarely see our own situation with enough distance to differentiate between trees and forest. We have blind spots ... and some of them can be deadly.
And so, as we approach Christmas, we are faced with these facts about love:
- God loves us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his very nature in order to become flesh and move into our neighborhood. We say it glibly ... let it sink in for a moment. He adapted to our readiness level in order to lead us home.
- God loves us so much that, in addition to the sacrifice to embrace flesh, he knew that this flesh would need to suffer and die in order to make a New Covenant that could include us. We are to become children of God! Adopted joint-heirs with Jesus!
- God loves us so much that he does not compel us to comply with his will ... he woos us and feeds us and encourages us and waits patiently for us to grow toward him.
- God loves us so much that he helps us understand that it is not all about us ... and it is not even all about him, either (Aaach! Heresy?!). It is all about US ... God with Us ... Emmanuel.
The Christmas Paradox: there is no greater love than this--that one lays down one's life for one's friends. Yet, in the laying down of one's life, it is not lost--rather, it is saved! In the serving of others, we are served. In the loving of others, we are loved. It is not all about me ... it is not all about others ... it is not even all about Jesus. It is all about miracle of love that is Emmanuel: God with Us--dancing!
LORD, may our dancing in celebration of Christ's birth be acceptable and in step with you, inviting to those who do not yet dance with us, and strengthening to The Church, Christ's Bride.