Do you remember the Love is … comic strip, the one-frame cartoons in newspapers from the late ’60s through to the ’90s.
They were simply an image of a young guy and girl, illustrating a simple statement about being in love – many of them were quite profound.
Love is so pursued, so thought about, so idealized, so needed, and so oft-misrepresented. How would you complete the statement, Love is … ?
Christmas is a season that depends on love. There is a willingness to give to others that just is not evident as much throughout the rest of the year. This sacrificial spirit defies the selfish attitudes typically displayed by so many of us far too often.
I realize that Christmastime can be very polarizing emotional. It is ‘the most wonderful time of the year,’ for some – sharing love with family and close friends.
It can also be very painful for those who are experiencing broken relationships, where memories of love-gone-sideways make the thought of a happy Christmas impossible.
How we view love comes strongly into play here. We all have the genuine need to experience and receive love, and most of us have been let down by our expectations of other people. People let us down. And we let others down.
I recently watched one of those YouTube videos that go viral through email (gotta love those emails, for which the subject line starts Fw: (!!)). The tag line for the video was “Free Hugs from Sondrio Italy.” The gist of the video was a young guy and a young girl walking through town and holding up a sign offering free hugs. You can imagine the reactions they got from people – scepticism, anxiety, awkwardness, fear, rejection.
But in their persistence, they also had the opportunity to bring joy to a great many people as well. And those reactions were more incredible to watch.
Love is a risk. Any time you risk giving love, you open yourself up to being vulnerable to rejection and pain.
But it is only through that same risk that you are able to connect with another and experience the interchange that comes through an act of love.
All love has to begin with giving. And giving works best when it is initiated, not expected.
It is the countdown to Christmas. Here we are in the Advent season, the time set aside to actually ponder what this season is really all about. The Bible says that “God so loved the world that He gave …” There it is. The act of initiation.
What did God give? He actually gave His Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus was sent from heaven to earth as part of God’s grand plan to reconcile the relationship with man that had been lost because of sin. God initiated. God gave. God came.
God came from heaven to earth. God stepped out of eternity into time. The immortal took on a mortal body. God became man. A fancy word for this is Incarnation.
God gave Jesus. Jesus gave His life, literally, for yours and mine. Because of sin, every person has been separated from God – sin that we have committed against God. Yet God gave, and God continues to give, in order to build a bridge back to Himself.
We have all done things that broke relationships with God, but he initiated – and continues to initiate the reconciliation.
So the next time you read the comic strip or some asks you what love is, remember: God is love. That is love. That is God.
That is Christmas.
Duane Goerzen is pastor at Maple Ridge Community Church.