It’s a good thing that Christmas comes every year because this is also a time when we get to see the world with fresh eyes. Perhaps this has happened for you. I know I’ve already watched a number of Christmas movies. What would Christmas be without the movies and songs?
Maybe a little saner! I think some of you may have had enough Christmas music already. Halloween was hardly over before the music began in the Malls.
The song Fresh Eyes, by Andy Grammer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bgemCaaQkU reminds us that it is always possible to see the world with fresh eyes, and that when we do magic happens.
Christmas music is so much a part of us that I’m sure you would be able to easily complete this short quiz: Name That Song!
- When we finally kiss goodnight, how I’ll hate going out in the storm. But if you really hold me tight, all the way home I’ll be warm.
- Please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree.
- In the meadow we can build a snowman and pretend that he is Parson Brown. He’ll say are you married, we’ll say no man. But you can do the job when you’re in town.
The Season of Love
Do you notice a theme here? Valentine’s Day may get all the attention for being the holiday of love, but it’s clear that Christmas holds a corner on the market as the season of love and romance. In fact, in the “2014 American Wedding Study” conducted by Brides magazine, researchers found that 19 percent of all engagements occur in December, making it the most popular month to get engaged. I watched a proposal the other night. I was at a promotion ceremony for my son, and after the ceremony one firefighter suddenly got down on one knee and proposed.
And can you guess the exact day that is the most popular to pop the question? Statistics show that Christmas Eve is the most popular day for engagements. Surprisingly, data released by Facebook last year showed that Christmas Eve is the most popular day to get engaged, followed by Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and then Valentine’s Day.
But depending on where you find yourself regarding romantic relationships at the moment, all this love in the air can bring happiness and expectation, or alternatively, feelings of loneliness and isolation. Nevertheless, too much focus on cuddling in the cold and meeting under the mistletoe can blind us to the real love story of Christmas. And we wouldn’t want to miss that!
The Unending Love Story
This is the love story that has been written for all of us. The story of true, faithful, unending, sacrificial love. God’s love is the one love that changes everything.
Love has been God’s story from the beginning. From the moment of creation, God’s love was part of the fabric of our world. God’s love was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden both before and after immorality entered the world. God showed His love by saving Noah and his family from the flood and giving them a new start. In the Old Testament God gave the commandments and law as an expression of love and a way for His people to avoid sin and suffering, and stay connected to Him. And His love turned the world inside out when He sent Jesus to show us what true love looks like. It takes real love to disrupt and overturn the power of evil and reveal love as God intended.
The story is not about feelings though. It’s God’s story of love in action—how the God of the universe loves you so much that he doesn’t give up on you or anyone for that matter. Jesus came with a radical message of love that told us that true parental love will leave the 99 and look for the one lost person because each individual holds within themselves the value of the entire universe. Everyone is that important.
The Season of Advent
You have maybe heard of Advent. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival.” This season is marked by expectation, waiting, anticipation, and longing. Advent is not just an extension of Christmas, it is a special time that links the past, present, and future. Advent offers us the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah – the person who can share love as God intended, to celebrate his birth, and to be alert to the fact that God is not done yet. There is more to come.
There is a saying I love, “It’s always OK in the end, so if it’s not OK, it’s not the end!” I don’t know who said that but it has helped me many times. I know this world is not OK for God either and that’s why we can be sure it’s not the end. Christmas can remind us that God has future plans for the world.
During Advent people, light candles on a wreath, which represent four aspects of God’s love for a world lost in darkness. One of those candles symbolizes love.
Advent is a season for gaining even greater understanding of how wide and deep His love is for us. This is the gift we can unwrap today. The question is, what do we do with this gift of love that God has sent to each one of us?
- Accept His Love
I’m going to guess that if I just say the reference John 3:16, many of us hear the familiar verse run through our heads automatically. Just in case, it goes like this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The problem is, sometimes we are so familiar with this verse that we can recite it and look right past it, not taking it in, but God’s love in sending Jesus is the one love that changes everything. This was and is the ultimate gift because the love Jesus embodied shows us the way out of the suffering and hell that we experience in our lives.
I don’t know about you but I think people are always looking for a way out of difficulty. But God has shown us the way.
In John 14:1-12 Jesus reassures his nervous disciples and Thomas who asked Jesus, “How can we know the way?” that he is the “way, the truth and the light.” In other words, I have shown you, follow my lead.
In a sermon, Rev. Moon explains:
“In the Bible, there is a verse that reads, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” (John 14:6) Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. This reveals that, although God’s word was not attained due to the fall of Adam and Eve, because man lives on this earth, God will again bestow this word upon humanity.
Because the word God spoke at the time of creation is connected to humanity, humanity has cherished that word as the one unchanging goal, the one hope. For that reason, a substantial being of the word must come in order to attain it.”
This shows us that the word is not meant to be in a book – it’s meant to be lived.
“That is why Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth (the word) and the life,” (John 14:6). This explains that Jesus was the substantial being of God’s word whom God had been hoping for.
What kind of word was the word of Jesus? It was the word Jesus announced by appearing as the one fruit of the heart of God, who had wished to speak to human beings during the course of history. It was to demonstrate God’s fretful heart before humanity and all creation. The one who came as the hero of the word for the accomplishment of this was the very Jesus you believe in today.
With the appearance of Jesus, the word that had been buried in God’s mind could be transferred to Jesus’ heart. You must know that this is the most joyful good news for humankind.”
Jesus lived a life with God at the center and his purpose was to teach us how to do the same.
For the Jewish people the appearance of Jesus was a miracle and God’s answer to their prayers. But Jesus didn’t come wrapped in a package that the people of Israel recognized and for this reason, tragically, they rejected him.
The message of this verse is for all time and reveals the heart of God’s gift to us. It makes sense that as we unwrap the gift of love today, we should start here at the center: God so loved the world. He gave His Son to show us the way out of our suffering and difficulty. He came to show us love as God intended.
What’s the most important thing about a gift?
The first thing we do with the gift of God’s love is so basic it’s easy to overlook. We must accept the gift! Have you ever had the experience of trying to give a gift but that person didn’t receive it? That’s painful!
A number of years ago, I worked with the Women’s Federation for World Peace. We hosted a series of conferences to cement peaceful relationship between previously warring nations; namely, America and Japan. This work commemorated the 50th anniversary of the end of World War Two. It was custom to thank the Japanese delegation by offering gifts. I’ll never forget my first experience. I approached the woman leading the group and held out our gift. To my surprise, she declined the gift. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I waited a few moments and offered the gift again. She reacted even more strongly. I was taken aback. Perhaps, she felt we shouldn’t have spent the money on the gift. I was afraid I had done something terribly wrong. I withdrew.
The following morning, I went to wave of the delegation. The leader bowed to say goodbye and thank us for our hospitality but then looked me in the eye and asked, “Where’s the gift?” I was a little stunned. I replied, “I thought you didn’t want it!”
A Japanese friend explained that in their culture it is customary to politely decline a gift. She told me “You are supposed to offer it three times.” Well, that was a lesson!
I reflected on how I felt when my gift was rejected and realized this is God’s heart – all the time. His love is rejected – we have all done it.
How many times has God tried to reach out to you?
Maybe you feel unloveable. Maybe you’ve been burned by human love too many times to trust that there’s something greater. Maybe you think, You don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know the dark secrets and doubts and fears and pain inside. Maybe I don’t, but God does—and the love He offers, sees and knows and understands. The love that God offers was revealed through His son, Jesus and other people in your life. God is always trying to reach us!
No matter what challenges or hurts you hold, God’s love can handle them and heal them. Wherever you are on your journey is okay. God knows. He understands. And His response is the gift of unconditional love.
Wherever you are, I encourage you to accept the gift of God’s love. Let this season of Advent be one of accepting the love and hope for a new life that God offers.
- Experience His Love
During this season of Advent, may we all also experience the love of God deeply. It’s not unusual to be distracted by all the things that need to get done in the next few weeks. It’s easy to read the headlines and wonder if love really can overcome the hatred in our world. It’s easy to allow worry over tomorrow—or next week or next year—to overwhelm us and keep us from feeling loved.
All those things matter—God does not ask you to ignore this in order to experience His love. You don’t have to completely rid yourself of hurry or worry. He invites you to bring those things to Him, to reveal the deepest hurts and concerns of your life and allow Him to fill you and renew you with His love.
God’s love must be experienced. It is not a gift to accept and unwrap and then put on a shelf. God’s love is our lifeblood and the oxygen coursing through us to continually fill us with life.
Let this season be one of embracing God’s love fully and experiencing His love in new and deep ways, as we continually open our hearts and minds and lives to Him.
- Share His Love
Have you ever been in love? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve done something dramatic or crazy to proclaim your love to the world. Maybe you literally shouted it out loud in public. You probably proclaimed it on Facebook. It’s what we do! It’s why we have centuries’ worth of poetry and novels and plays and love songs about love. When we are in love, it shows. We can’t help it. Love overflows.
The gift of God’s love is the same way—it’s for sharing. And, in fact, sharing this gift doesn’t leave us with less; it leaves us with more. Once we accept and experience the love of God, the next natural step is to share it, to let it overflow out and around us. In fact, Mother Moon shared about this in her recent address at the Manhattan Center in NY. She encouraged us to not keep the Blessing to ourselves. Our Blessing takes on greater meaning and value when it is shared.
John addressed this process in 1 John 4:9–11: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
God’s love comes to us and flows through us. The more we embrace and experience it, the more we naturally share it with others.
What does that look like for you this season? It could mean spending quality time with family. It could mean reconnecting with a friend who has drifted away. It might mean serving neighbors or strangers or seeking out someone you suspect is lonely or hurting. It might mean forgiving someone who has hurt you or apologizing to someone you have hurt. There are endless ways to allow God’s love to flow through you, as you love others as He has loved you. Think of one way right now that you can share God’s love this week. Then keep your heart and eyes open to the world around you as Christmas approaches. Consider how you can look at the world with fresh eyes.
Let’s keep our focus on making this a season of love that reaches far deeper than the sappy Christmas music or even the romantic statistics. Let’s truly experience God’s love and be recognized by others because of His love is flowing out of us. May this be a season of accepting, experiencing, and sharing God’s gift of love in a new and deeper way.
“Let is Snow”
“I’ll be Home for Christmas”