Writing about love seems impossible. We have songs about it and movies declaring its virtues. Our souls long for it and our culture misunderstands it. But if we were to be honest, for many of us love seems like an unrealistic expectation. We walk through our days dragging long personal histories of not being good enough for our family, our friends, or our communities. Allowing the shame to wash over us, we isolate ourselves accepting that the best we can offer is simply not enough to garner the love we so desire. So we hide our lives away, cultivating picturesque social media platforms, and ignoring our need for connection.
But why does this plague us so? From an early age we are taught that to receive love, we must earn it. The very idea of Santa cements in our minds the concept of a greater being patiently waiting to punish us for misbehavior. Even though the years have long passed since we found out he’s not real, the thought of his judgment still lingers. At the heart of it, we are still little kids wondering whether we’ve been nice or naughty. Have we earned enough love to get presents from Santa Claus? Have we earned our spot at the table? Is this the year we get coal?
Or to put it in adult terms:
Will this present make him/her love me?
Will I wake up Christmas morning to find that I am truly alone?
Will they visit me again if I have a flawlessly ornate tree?
Will my family finally accept me if I bring the perfect cinnamon rolls?
But is this what Christmas was supposed to be?
We can have the most beautiful tree.
We can have the best presents.
We can have the ugliest Christmas sweater.
We can have the most delicious sugar cookies.
But if we don’t have love, we’re bankrupt.
In that truth is the miracle of Christmas. It’s the miracle of John 3:16:
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.
God so loved the world that he came as a helpless babe into a world of hatred, a world that eventually crucified him. He didn’t create a naughty or nice list. He didn’t wrap up coal and give it to you in exchange for your sins. He simply asked all “who are weary and burdened” to come to him for rest. His burden is light. (Matt 28-30)
That is Christmas. That is our story. A story we don’t deserve and a story most of us don’t intimately understand.
So this Advent season let’s lay down our hatred and let’s get rid of our lists and our expectations. Let’s stop dragging around our inadequacies and shame.
Let us exchange that for the truth of the season:
You, my friend, are dearly loved. Not for your accomplishments or your niceness. But for you. You are loved enough that Jesus laid in a manager and won the fight against darkness so that you might have life in the fullest, so that you might have love in the fullest.
Live that truth. Spread that truth. Love in that truth.