This year, 2017, has been for me, among many things, the year of funerals. I have assisted at funerals of friends or their families, former colleagues, parishioners, and neighbors. At several of these funerals, we have heard these beautiful words from the 8th chapter of Paul’s Letter to the Romans:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In this week, as we continue to celebrate the coming of the Light of Christ into the world, my mind keeps returning to these beautiful words, reminding us of the promises of God to love and hold us, to protect us and comfort us.
Christ comes into the world for all. And Christ, whose birth we have been so ready for, brings the love that is God into the world and, if we let him, into our hearts. Then we, as children of God, are expected to also carry that love into the world. God loves us unceasingly, and we will always be assured of this, if only we will allow that Love to rule over us and guide us and protect us.
The love of Christ does not gain us membership in an exclusive club, but enjoins us to build the kingdom of heaven right here on earth, right now,
Love that has been waiting to be reborn into the world not just as we celebrate on Christmas but that is born into the world every time we comfort someone who is suffering or in sorrow or in want, every time we truly care for another. Love that pierces the darkness, even of loss and despair, and draws our hearts to the miracle of a birth in a manger.
Our adoption as children of God lays on us responsibilities for loving our neighbors as ourselves as we love the Lord our God. That is why these are the two great commands we are called to live into when we open ourselves to the love of God.
We are children of God when we realize that all those around us– every single person from the beggar on the streets to the job-seeker desperate to sustain her family to the person who feels friendless and alone to the ones who love and treasure us no matter what physical ties we have to each other– are the children of God as well.
All we have to do is love. Love is Everything. Love will abide within us if we leave open a space in our hearts, at Christmas and every day. It is through our love that we are known as Christians and as human beings. Love can sustain us, even if this season is also filled with sadness or memories of those who have left us.
All through Advent, this was the realization for which we longed—to know that we are grounded and centered in God’s love, made incarnate through Jesus, who comes into the world as the most vulnerable of beings—a human infant—so that we could remember that God shares in all our experiences in joy and sorrow, in light and darkness, in love and loss.
Image: Candles at Blue Christmas