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Reflection December 9, 2018
"An Abundance of Divine Love" - by Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of divinity into human flesh. One of the great highlights of God’s love was the birth of the Son into our world but his birth was not the culmination of God’s love. We await the culmination which will happen when Christ returns to complete creation.
How do we know that God loves us? We are certainly assured in the Bible that God loves us. As Isaiah relates: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1,4)
When we love someone else the first thing we must do is to accept the other person. We begin the process of loving another when we accept the other completely even with the person’s faults and flaws. This acceptance doesn’t mean that we don’t want the other person to cease growing. But the first requirement of love is acceptance.
As the famous Swiss physician and psychotherapist, Paul Tournier, stated it: “At the heart of personality is the need to feel a sense of being lovable without having to qualify for that acceptance.” As our brother Paul teaches in Romans 5:8: “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Not only did God accept us in our inherent human brokenness but this divine acceptance went to an incredible and incomprehensible extreme. Divinity decided to step away from divinity and enter the full reality of human existence and experience.
Some will remember the 1961 bestseller, Black Like Me. This book, by John Howard Griffin, was a riveting account of a white man changing the color of his skin and then traveling for six weeks through the South in 1959 to see how he’d be treated.
There had been other accounts of life as a black person, such as Ralph Ellison’s classic 1953 novel, Invisible Man, but Black Like Me had a tremendous impact on helping white people understand the reality of racism in America. I read the book as a high school freshman and it helped me understand racism in a holy new way.
Black Like Me points out how difficult it was in 1959 for a white man to really know the experience of black people living in the South. Griffin had to change his skin color in order to truly know what it was like to be a black man. Griffin did this experiment because of his hope of healing the wound of racism which obviously haunts us all still.
What we see God do in the Incarnation is so beyond our imagining. God – the Maker of All There Is – the Source of All Life – wanted to heal the wound that comes with being born human. Being born human is a great gift and grace, to be sure, but it carries a wound with it; the wound of alienation from our Maker, the wound of alienation from one another. God decided to heal this alienation – this wound - by becoming one of us. Can we really wrap our minds around this profound reality?
I believe some of us who accept the truth of the Incarnation of God do so too easily – too readily. Yes, the Incarnation proves God’s love many times over – but only if we are careful and thoughtful about accepting it. If we accept the reality of the Incarnation, then we must treat each other differently than we normally do.
The Incarnation means we must accept each and every one of us as precious. And if we are truly precious – then, for God’s sake, we must act on the truth of this reality.
We are so precious in the eyes of God – that God leaps into the empty womb of a virgin to experience firsthand what it means to be human. This is the most profound way God could find to fully accept the wounded human condition. As the theologian Karl Rahner wrote: “God’s advent among us long ago outstripped all our plans and all our disappointments…God has accepted us. And the abysses within us are filled with God’s grace.”
Because of the Incarnation, we need to treat each other as awesomely accepted – as profoundly precious. God loves all of us no matter what. We are loved and accepted without having to earn God’s love and acceptance. God gives it to us as a free gift of grace. We, in turn, need to ponder how to respond to this incredible godly gift.
Ponder these lyrics from the well-known Christmas hymn, O Holy Night – from the third stanza, speaking of Christ: “Truly he has taught us to love one another; his law is love and his gospel is peace. Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease.”
We’re a long way from this reality but we’re called to help bring about the cessation of all oppression through the power of Christ. We’re commissioned to help break any and all chains enslaving so many of us in our wounded world.
Another vital dimension of God’s love is God’s desire for us to live deeply – to stop living only on the surface of things. God wishes for us to experience life and love with intensity, with passion. And one of the ways we live with intensity, with passion, is to recognize everything as sacred.
Because God loved us so much, God became human. And in this process – all the experiences of being human have become sacred. In Christ, human life has been filled with a new vitality, a new depth. Because Christ laughed, laughter is now sacred. Because Christ cried, tears are now sacred. Because Christ ate, eating is now sacred.
Because Christ did all the things that humans do, but without sin, so now all the activities of the human person, with the exception of sin, are sacred. Because Christ became human, human life is now profoundly sacred. Because Christ was born, all creatures born are now sacred. If only we could fully live in this sacredness!
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor