Love came down
This blog is a summary of a talk I gave recently on this theme. The Christmas story has inspired countless traditions: decorations, pageants, philanthropic gestures, family lunches, staff parties, pantomimes and Santa dress ups. But one that stands out is presents and gifts.
Maybe gifts can fall into 3 categories:
- A gift you received but don’t want, and would not have given and for which you need your best ‘pretend-you-like-it-smile’
- A gift you received and you really liked
- A gift you didn’t receive but would have really liked to.
But there is a 4th type of gift. A gift, a surprise you have received but never in a million years expected and God’s gift falls in this 4th category
In the first week of Advent we heard this reading: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1). The people of God who cried out these words in prayer a very long time before Jesus came here on earth would have never dreamt that God would give us the gift of Himself in the Incarnation.
Yet for many, it remains unwrapped and even if Christmas comes to remind us about it, it makes no real difference to their lives, either because they do not really care or because the Christmas story happened long ago and doesn’t seems to have any real relevance for their lives today.
With St Paul, for millions of people around the world that is changing and they can say from their hearts: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). The word in Greek would literally mean ‘words fail me, beyond description’. Love not only has come down, but still comes down.
Love Came Down to Save Us
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins
When we celebrate birthdays we don’t usually retell the story of the person’s birth unless maybe, if it was a difficult one. But we keep retelling the birth of Jesus with its significant details because it is vitally important for us.
One of the privileges of any parent is to give their child a name. In Hebrew culture the name of a person was very important. God chose the name which encapsulates who Jesus is: Yeshua – God Saves.
This immediately tells us: when you look at the cradle, look at the cross. On the cross Jesus took all my sin and all my guilt.
Once sin is such an issue, a cancer of the soul, why is it taken so lightly. Last year Pope Francis quoted a famous phrase used by Pope Pius XII: “The greatest sin today is that men have lost the sense of sin.”
The result is, we are convinced that we can do anything without consequences and that separation from God is not really an issue.
So in Christmas let us first ask God to give us the sense of sin so we will ask forgiveness and allow him to save us.
Love Came Down to Heal Us
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests”
On the first Christmas God invited the most unexpected people to be the first to see his Son. Shepherds were considered to belong to the lowest class of society, uneducated and untrustworthy. In fact they were not even allowed to give testimony in a court of law.
God’s invitation list is often different from our own – we are all on his list otherwise you would not be here.
The word we use in English ‘peace’and Maltese ‘paci’comes from the Latin word ‘Pax’which to the Romans in the time of Jesus meant the end of a war because someone more powerful defeats someone weaker. In fact, Jesus was born in the reign of Caesar Augustus who initiated a long period of relative peace in the Roman Empire (Pax Romana, Pax Augusta).
But the angels appeared to Jewish shepherds who didn’t speak Latin but Hebrew and they used the biblical word ‘shalom’. This word means wholeness, to be complete and healthy. This is the Lord’s gift to us.
Many times we are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.
And so we are busy, depressed, anxious, irritable, happy for the moment, escaping – God wants to initiate a process of healing in us but we have to allow Him.
God is offering joy. Yes we will still have to suffer. However it all depends on what the source of your joy is. Sadly, few people associate God with joy today.
So let us ask God to help us become real in front of Him so we can receive his healing grace and journey towards wholeness.
Love Came Down to Lead Us
“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”
To believe in Biblical terms is not a mental assent but a verb, which means ‘to follow, to entrust’. It means not only to believe in God, but to believe God and to believe that He loves you.
The love which God loves us with is an incredibly tender love, which is compassionate, forgiving, merciful, totally unselfish, not self-seeking.
However many people are happy to entrust God as a passenger in their car – but He is the driver and that is why we need to turn our lives over to Him. He is leading us to eternal life which starts now with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What may Jesus be telling you this Christmas? Forgive others, bring reconciliation, stop cheating, stop speaking against others, treat immigrants with dignity and above all start praying.
Without the birth of Christ, it would always be winter, but never Christmas
Once Jesus met a woman who asked him for water and he told her these amazing words:“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water’” (John 4:10).
This Christmas ask the Lord: “Come down into my heart, Come Holy Spirit”.