Love, Actually.

God is love. And loves shows up.

When the night is dark and cold and we feel all alone.

Love shows up.

When we’ve messed up yet again. When we’ve broken promises to ourselves and others. When we’ve reached rock bottom.

Love shows up.

When we’ve abandoned hope. And we’ve sold out our values. When our shortcuts have gotten us lost.

When money and power and relationships and politics and whatever else has failed. When we’ve got nowhere else to turn.

Love shows up.

And unlike some sappy Hallmark movie type love, this love is profound. It is higher and deeper and wider and longer than we can wrap our heads around.

This love is patient and kind and never jealous or rude.

This love is not boastful or arrogant. It isn’t selfish or self-seeking. It isn’t easily irritated.

This love does not keep a list of all the wrongs that have been done.

This love fights injustice and parties with the truth.

This love trusts and hopes and endures the unendurable and outlasts all that makes the rest of us quit.

This is love, actually.

It is better than the movies say. It is bigger than romantic feelings and more costly than all the gifts that can be bought. It is far more wonderful than the hands-off permissiveness society sometimes calls love.

And its not something that one can simply fall out of. It is gritty and sticky and hard to wash off.

This love never fails.

At Christmas this unfailing, unending, all encompassing love shows up in the person of Jesus. At Christmas this love, the very love of God, is embodied, enfleshed, in a baby wrapped in cloths and laying in a manger.

He is love, actually. Touchable. Hugable. Knowable. Followable.

He is an announcement. A proclamation. A living message shouting throughout the universe,

“You are loved. Really, truly, deeply, fully loved.”

Despite your flaws and your mistakes. Despite all your self-made messes. Despite what you’ve been told. Despite what you think of yourself. Despite what you think you deserve. Despite your bad theology and your politics and your track record.

You are known and you are loved.

Christmas reveals that God is not angry with you or fed up with you. God does not simply tolerate you. God is not waiting around the corner to catch you in the act.

God is for us. God is with us.

God has come for us. Not to judge us, Scripture says, but to love us. To show us the way. To bring us home. To mend our wounds. To heal our hearts. To set us free. To clean up our mess.

He has come for us and come for them. He has come for those we call enemies. He has come for those we like and those we fear. He has come for those we would rather exclude and he has come for those we wish he hadn’t.

This is love. And it is the message of Christmas. It is an invitation to a better way, what Saint Paul calls “the most excellent way.”

At Christmas we are invited to trust this love and this God and we are invited to respond in love to the world around us.

To be patient and kind and full of grace. To be humble and look to the needs of others. To seek justice and speak truth. To be faithful.

To reach out across boundaries and divides. To forgive. To make space. To include.

Christmas is the story of a God who loves and sends and comes and loves again.

May we know this love and may we be changed by it. May we believe that love has come. May we be so convinced of this love that we live like its true. And may we be so defined by this actual love that our neighbors know it too.

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