Advent Four: Practicing Love

advent-loveTruly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
– O Holy Night

Jesus was not born into this world so that God could love the world. Jesus was born into this world because God so loved the world. The very nature of Jesus’ birth reveals the nature of God: vulnerable, humble and present with us – all of us. Jesus is God’s living proclamation of love. God is love, which is why all true faith will inevitably transform us into more loving people.

Practicing love begins by dwelling in the deepest truth of our faith – that we are loved just as we are. No conditions. No exceptions. Despite our failure and shortcomings. Just as we cannot exhale before inhaling, we cannot truly love until we believe ourselves to be loved unconditionally. If you want to become a more loving person begin by dwelling in these truths:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

Stand firm and be deeply rooted in Christ’s love. I pray that you and all of God’s people will understand what is called wide or long or high or deep. I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is. – Ephesians 3:17-19

Beware the Inner Critic, that voice we all hear that criticizes, demeans and accuses us, telling us that we are unworthy and not enough. Every time you hear that voice talk back to it, telling yourself the truth of the Gospel – you are loved and you are enough, because God says so in Christ.

Being firmly and deeply rooted in Christ’s love allows us to grow in love for others. Practicing love for others has little to do with our emotions. We don’t feel our way into love. We actually love our way into feeling it. C.S. Lewis once put it this way,

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

Chances are good that in this coming week you’re going to put your knees under the same table with people you struggle to like. Love them anyway. Not because they deserve it, but because you’re loved by God and so are they. Commit now to loving them with a listening and non-judgmental ear, a word of affirmation and encouragement, simple acts of kindness. You’ll discover the secret of love – that your heart will follow your actions.

Give yourself a little gift and listen to this beautiful story. Click here.

I want to wish you and yours a blessed Christmas. Rejoice and be glad, for Christ dwells in the manger of your heart! I’m taking a couple of weeks off from blogging for the holidays. I’ll see you again in this space in the New Year.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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