Today if the fourth Sunday of Advent: Love.
My little guy loves donuts. The other day, I purposefully picked up a package just for him. I couldn’t wait to show him what I got. Honestly, I’m not sure whose grin was bigger when I brought out Mama’s little surprise.
As I thought about love, that moment is the one that came to mind. I love to make my little guy happy. I love seeing the smile on his face. I love thinking of little ways to bring him happiness. And then I thought about God.
So often when we go through struggles, difficulties, and heartaches (like all throughout this year, especially), we focus on asking God why. Why would he allow it? If he loved us, wouldn’t he make the pain better? Isn’t it like that with our children? We would do anything to take away their pain.
And that’s just it, wanting to and being able to take away our children’s pain are different things. We live in a world of natural order. Of humans. I truly believe God hurts with us when we experience pain. In fact, he hurt with us so much so that he came down to earth himself to take on sin itself so that he could take away our pain. The fulfillment of that promise is not yet and in the meantime, he weeps with us. I could say so much more on this, but that’s for another time.
Back to the topic of Love. Wanting to take away our children’s pain isn’t the only way we desire to show them love. We hug them for no reason. We delight to give them their heart’s desires, whether it be a trip to the park, a box of donuts, or maybe that something special they have on their Christmas list. We want to see their joy.
Which brings me back around to this question about God’s love. How often do we associate God’s lack of love with pain, but never see good things that happen to us as God’s love? As His chance to bring us delight. Things like the sunset, the stars, the evergreen trees that show us that something can live through the bleakest of winters.
To continue my children analogy, of course when we give them good things, it also means we have to deny them things. Too much sugar. Staying up too late. That expensive trip or toy. But denying them, even if it’s for their own good, doesn’t it hurt us a little, too? Even if our children don’t see it that way. A bit convicting, that. Are we like that with God? Not seeing how much our disappointments hurt him, too.
These questions, it’s another reason I love Christmas. At other times of the year, God can feel distant, arbitrary, out of touch. But at Christmas, he is Emmanuel, God With Us. We celebrate Him at his weakest, as a baby. We remember Him when he was most like us, as a human. We give gifts to others as He was given as a gift to us.
Christmas is also the time of children. Their ability to experience life to its fullest. To see wonder in the simplest things. To love with abandon. Like God loves us. And perhaps as we should love one another “…for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself” (Dickens, A Christmas Carol).
So, reader friends, may this Christmas be one where you feel the love God has for you. Keep your eyes open. It may not be obvious like a name written in the sky. Perhaps it will be a parking space incredibly opening up before your eyes when you thought you’d be late or the generosity of a stranger letting you go ahead of them in the grocery line. Perhaps it’s a neighbor bringing you a plate of cookies or the splash of color across the clouds at sunrise.
Then out of that love we receive, may we love one another.