This past Sunday we lit the fourth Advent candle, the candle of love. As we did so I got thinking about what we know of love. Church goers will be familiar with the scriptural quote from John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That is a love that would be hard to emulate wouldn’t it? And then there are the words from 1 Corinthians 13,
1If I speak in the tonguesa of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,b but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
On reading these sections of the Bible I think we risk getting a very romanticized idea of perfect, comfortable love which will always meet our needs and never be challenging. So what about all those conflicts in our families? I believe we miss out on a rather significant point from God’s love letter to his people, as the Bible is often called, we have often been in conflict with God.
In my classes lately we have been looking at Dr. John Gray’s love letter technique for dealing with conflict within relationships. One of the things that is so powerful about this technique is that it focuses not on everything that is wrong with the other person, but on our own feelings. The idea is that by going systematically through all the feelings and writing them out we will find ourselves back at love. There is a section for each of; Anger, Sadness, Fear, Regret, and Love. My students often start out rejecting the idea out of hand because it starts out with such negative feelings. After all, we aren’t supposed to get angry, jealous, etc.
Let’s look at those again. We have read about the wrath of God, and out of anger Jesus destroyed the fig tree. Every time humans have turned their backs on God and strayed it must have saddened God, as it would any parent when rejected by their children. Jesus is moved to sadness over the troubles of others, and he cries in sadness and some degree of fear over the challenge in facing the cross. It seems clear that God has felt regret if only by looking at the number of times we were cast out, sent into exile or in other ways punished, only to be taken up again in God’s arms.
If things in your relationships are not all rosy and exciting as we head into Christmas, do not feel that the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are not for you! It is because of God’s love (anger, sadness, fear, regret and all) that we were sent the awesome gift of Jesus. It is out of God’s love that we are offered grace. It may take us years to unwrap it, but the gift remains there for those who believe.
To find out more about the Love Letter Technique read Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by Dr. John Gray
Posted in Bible Study, Christmas, Reflections
Tagged Advent, anger, Christmas, conflict resolution, fear, God, grace, Jesus, love, regret, sadness
By the light of one small candle
Total darkness disappears.
A glimmer of hope
Begins to glow.
This morning I was standing in line at the cash register at a local store. There was Christmas music playing in the background, and I became aware that all three of us in line were toe tapping etc. to the music. I noted this to them and suggested that it must mean that it was early in the season as later on we would likely be complaining about being tired of hearing it. We had a nice chuckle, and one of the women noted that it wasn’t even December yet. When I commented that Advent starts tomorrow one of the women asked what I’m giving up. I said that we give things up for Lent and not Advent, and that it is a good thing! That got me thinking…
We actually give up many things during Advent don’t we?
We give up common sense with respect to our eating habits. Our best intentions with respect to eating healthfully typically go out the window as the chocolate, candy and home-baked sweets are set out to tempt us, and big family dinners go on and on!
We give up on our budgets as we buy special clothing for Christmas parties, and get caught up in all the Christmas shopping hype. Out come our credit cards and we lose track quickly of how even really great prices can be too much if you buy too many things.
Neither of those are good for us, but there are more things given up during Advent and Christmas…
We relax those tight fists on our purse strings and donate more to charities and causes. Knowing this it is the main time of year for organizations such as World Vision to put out catalogues of items so that people see something concrete to go along with their monetary donation. Along with our money we loosen up and give more of our time and talents at this time as well. People go out to entertain at nursing homes, work to collect food and clothing for food banks etc.
It is a time to give up on despair, to be replaced by the hope that comes with the birth of the Messiah.
We give up on arguments, feuds, and wars (remember hearing about the troops in the WWI in 1914 meeting in no-man’s-land to celebrate Christmas) and accept the gift of peace from the Prince of Peace!
We let go of our inner Grinch and, in joy, we smile, sing, and celebrate the birth of a baby boy!
And finally, out goes our loneliness as we accept the love of God and the constant presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
So it turns out the question the woman asked me in line this morning was pretty insightful after-all. What will I give up for Advent? How about you?
Posted in anticipation, Christmas, Reflections
Tagged Advent, charity, Christmas, debt, diet, giving, giving up, hope, joy, Lent, love, peace, World Vision
The Sunday Hymn Page is updated to include the second Sunday of Advent.
As Lent begins and along with it a series of noon time talks by Bishop Bill Hockin and Dr. Barry Craig, I am listening to their series of talks from this past Advent. With their talks being at noon, my parents are able to attend and I am not. So here I am listening to talks about Advent (a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christmas) during the second week of Lent (a season of fasting and reflection and repentance between Ash Wednesday and Easter). The series is called Shopping for a Messiah: The Eternal Search for a Better Life and is available at billhockin.ca and I highly recommend you check them out at billhockin.ca. The first week’s topic is A Messiah Who Takes You Home to Dinner, the second is A Messiah Who Loves the Loser, the third A Messiah Who Switches the Price Tags, and finally there is a reflection on A Messiah Who Turns the Tables on Religion.
I realize that it sounds rather odd to be listening to Advent reflections while reading Lenten devotions. The thing is that Advent and Lent are not as different as they may seem. “Jesus is the reason for both seasons!”
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 Jesus is the Messiah whose coming we anticipate during Advent, upon whose life and ministry we reflect during Lent, and who ultimately took all our sin on his shoulders through his death on the cross and rising at Easter.
Posted in Bible Study, Lectionary, Reflections
Tagged Advent, Ash Wednesday, billhockin.ca, Bishop Bill Hockin, Christianity, church, Dr. Barry Craig, Easter, God, Jesus, John 3:16, Lent, Messiah, promise, reflection, repentance, waiting