Advent Reflections: Love

I come from a very straight Anglican church background, we sang hymns and in the church choir we wore robes and cassocks. Though I love the style of worship we have at Church At Barking Riverside, I do sometimes miss the hymns and anthems I was so used to singing week in, week out. One of them being, God Is Love, His The Care. Again, not always upbeat and not really a Christmas hymn, but the lyrics stick with me and are very poignant to this week’s Advent Reflections on Love.

1 God is love: his the care,
tending each, ev’rywhere,
God is love, all is there!
Jesus came to show him,
that we all might know him!

Refrain:
Sing aloud, loud, loud!
sing aloud, loud, loud!
God is good! God is truth!
God is beauty! Praise him!

2 None can see God above;
we can share life and love;
thus may we Godward move,
finding him in creation,
holding ev’ry nation. [Refrain]

3 Jesus lived on the earth,
hope and life brought to birth
and affirmed human worth,
for he came to save us
by the truth he gave us. [Refrain]

4 To our Lord praise we sing,
light and life, friend and King,
coming down, love to bring,
pattern for our duty,
showing God in beauty. [Refrain]

Percy Dearmer (1925)

The hymns rings true: God is love. So much so that He sent His only son, to be born just so He could die on the cross for our sins. That is the epitome of love. No matter what we do, good or bad, He loves us. He supports us. He forgives us.

As Christians, it can seem like there are many rules to live by, but the most simplest way to look at is: Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. If we love everyone we come into contact with, and no I don’t mean be in love with them or be OTT about it, but if we can treat everyone with kindness and humility then we are some way towards living as Jesus did. During His time on earth, He made the most lowly of society feel loved and welcomed, much to His ‘peers’ dismay. So we too should treat others – even those who make us feel small, or those who take our kindness for weakness, or even those who take a mile when we give an inch – with love. One of our main goals in life should be to receive Jesus’ love, and pay it on to others.

This Christmas time, if anyone comes to mind that you’ve been distanced from, who has annoyed you etc, wish them a genuine merry Christmas or pray for them if reaching out is too hard. You never know how much they might need it.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

1 John 3:16 NIV

Today’s reflection by the Bible Project asks us to read: 1 John 4:8, 1 John 4:16, 1 John 3:16, John 15:9-13

Then asks the following questions:

  1. Take note of the phrase “come to know and believe.” How is knowing and believing God’s love for us a process?
  2. Jesus and his disciples compared his love to a place where you can live or “abide.” To truly live somewhere, we first have to move in, unpack, and learn the space and how to operate in it. What else do people do when they live somewhere? How can this compare to what it’s like to trust in Jesus’ love?

I’ll share my thoughts on these questions and it’d be great to hear your thoughts/comments/questions too.

How is knowing and believing God’s love for us a process?

As it says in Enduring World, there are many different responses to Gods love:

  • Some respond with a sense of self-superiority: “I’m so great, even God loves me!”
  • Some respond with doubt: “Can God really love even me?”
  • Some respond with wickedness: “God loves me, so I can do what I want”

But what God wants is for us to respond by knowing (by experience) and believing the love God has for us. We don’t physically see God or His love, but we feel and know of it in the blessings He has given us and the loved ones He has surrounded us with. Through His acts of love towards us, we can believe His love is real and true. It is from there that our hearts become full, we become full of His love, allowing us the capacity to pay it forward to others.

What else do people do when they live somewhere? How can this compare to what it’s like to trust in Jesus’ love?

When my husband and I moved to Barking Riverside, one of the main things for me was to meet our neighbours, make sure we have a support system here and people with little ones that our little one could be friends with. Similarly, when we live in God’s love, we should look for those who dwell in the same place as us, who remind us just how loved we are and how much we need to share the love.

You also need to find your nearest amenities when you move to a new area; where’s the nearest petrol station/supermarket/cinema etc. Likewise, where is your nearest church community that you can go to, to feel supported and topped up?

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

1 John 4:16 NIV

The God of the Bible doesn’t just express love; he is love. As a triune God – Father, Son, and Spirit – he has always been and will always be an others-centred, self-giving, communal being. Jesus, the Son, fully embodies the love of God and demonstrates it most clearly when he gives his life on behalf of humanity. When people learn to trust Jesus’ love for them, they join in God’s community of love, and their very nature is transformed to love others with him. 

It may not come easy to you, you may have a warped sense of what His love is or feels like, but know: He loves you for you and He wants you to love others as you love yourself/wish to be loved.

I pray that though we are still in uncertain times, and though Christmas can be hard with being forced to spend longer with family than usual, we are still able to feel, know and believe in His love. Being in this place of knowing and believing in His love will allow us to surrender to His will but also be that much more patient and loving to those around us. I pray we are able to be a little bit more like Jesus at this time and as we move into 2022. Amen.

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