During this season of Advent, we have been thinking about how we might celebrate Christmas differently – how we might be more faithful to what the season is really about, and how we might make a difference here and now. Hope, Peace, and Joy have all been a central part of that journey. The key word for today is unequivocal; it is Love. Or as a theme in the AC studies, it is “Love All”.
But what is love exactly? It is fair to say that there are various shades of meaning, and it could mean slightly different things in different contexts. Essentially, though, as the Christmas Bowl resources remind us, “The love that Jesus teaches is not an emotion or a feeling or even a value or attitude – it is instead a verb. Love is something we do”.
Equally, we could say that “love is a person, Jesus the Messiah, a baby born in a feeding trough who became the salvation of the world”. At the same time, we must resist all sentimentalised attempts to keep Jesus as a baby, but instead draw attention to the life and teachings of Christ as a demonstration of God’s love for all the world.
The Advent Conspiracy study reminds us that God is demonstrably on the side of the poor; or in the words of Scott Bessenecker,
“When God voted with his birth, he voted for the poor”.
If we are to take seriously the teaching of Jesus, it is clear that “we cannot allow the broken and vulnerable to become invisible”.
The challenge implicit in that is significant. To “love all” beyond the level of tokenism is a really big issue. We might start by asking how we are doing that as a Church in this community. The beginning of an answer would be the empty Christmas tree, and funds for drought-affected people, as well as the Red Bag Appeal for those doing it tough closer to home.
The Christmas Bowl Appeal is celebrating its 70th birthday this year. What a significant milestone that is, and what a difference it has made in countless lives and communities over the years. All of the recipients of the Bowl over the years have been people like us, with hopes and dreams, yet with little hope of fulfilment. I once had the opportunity to visit several of those communities, to see for myself what a difference it can make.
It is not enough merely to say what we think are the right words; the words must take form and substance. The world is not saying “tell me”; it is saying “show me”. The wonder of this season is in those words of John’s Gospel: “
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth….”
As the AC tells us, it is now our turn to model his love and generosity in the way we live and practice our faith.
Clive W Ayre