Readings 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 and Luke 1:26-38
Image, Nativity, Paul Gauguin (1896). Oil on Canvas
This Advent we have lit candles for hope, peace, and joy. We reflected on what it means to hold onto hope even now, to confess that even now after so much historical inequity and present injustice Jesus can call life from death. We committed to be people of peace, drawing strength in the wilderness from Christ who appears on the stage of human struggle in full sprint, bearing our burdens and leading us into the kingdom. And last week we not only experienced a great deal of joy, but we reflected on where we might find the joy in our lives today that leads us back to the angelic pronouncement of good news of great joy.
Advent ends with love, because everything ends in love. Paul reminds us that even when everything else comes to an end, when all else fades away, love never ends. Even faith and hope fade in the age to come. For when we see God face to face, and live before the enteral and undiminished light of Christ, only love remains, because God is love.
The writers of scripture tend to excel when they are writing about love. Love is patient, love is kind, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Not height or depths nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God. Perfect love casts out fear. Cloth yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. For God so loved the world… it is fitting that some of the most stirring passages in all of Scripture should be those that orbit most closely the nature of God.
Advent ends with love because we are at the precipice of Emmanuel, God with us. Christmas celebrates that out of infinite compassion and steadfast kindness, God elected to be with and for us so that we should never doubt that we are loved such a great deal. The good news of great joy is that we are loved enough that Christ would not exploit his equality with God but was born into human likeness. Humbling himself to share in our suffering and death so that as he is exalted, so we shall be exalted, as he is raised so we shall be raised, as he shall triumph, we shall triumph.
In the first Advent of Christ, the light of the world stepped onto the stage of human struggle. In his love Jesus conquered death, swallowed sin, and issued forth a spirit of adoption so that we should be called siblings of Christ, children of God. Because he lived a life of perfect love, all that is his by righteousness is ours by grace. And for this reason, we trust that until and beyond Christ’s second Advent our lives, like our death, will be held in love.
It's time of year where we are want to revisit favourite films and books. The act of rewatching a film or rereading a book is a dramatically different experience than reading for the first time. Because all the various character decisions are shaped by our knowledge of their end. We rue all the more a father’s decision not to tell their child the family secret before departing on that streamliner because we know they do not return. We tear out our hair at the protagonist’s impatiently rash decision to take the stairs rather than wait for the elevator because it means they miss their beloved and thus remain estranged for 236 more pages. The knowledge of a character’s end, exposes the virtue or folly of all the little actions and attitudes that lead them there.
Advent is a season which asks us to reflect on our lives in light of the horizons between which they are lived. To consider the way in which the shape of our life conforms to its end. The knowledge of the location of our end (in love) affords us the capacity to almost reread our lives as we live them, searching our actions and attitudes for the ways in which they befit our end. And because our end is love, so too the shape of our life is love. Our lives of love do not procure us this end, rather, like opening a present on Christmas Eve they celebrate it in advance! We live lives of joyful, abundant, prodigal love, because it is satisfying when an ending is foreshadowed throughout the narrative.
Mary knew she could trust God’s love. When the angel asks her to do the impossible, she responds, Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word. Mary might not know all the chapters of the story she embarks upon, but she knows that with God, it will end with the glorious triumph of love. Mary exemplifies the faithful life shaped by love. She knows that the tumult of the present is given perspective by the promise of the end. Her soul magnifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God her saviour, because the Divine Love does not abhor her womb. The Divine Love does not abhor the suffering of the people nor the lowliness of the manger. The Divine Love does not abhor the crown of thorns nor the ugliness of the cross. The Divine Love comes swaddled in humility and will return dazzling in glory, because it is God’s nature to love. It is who God is. It is because of love that God abides with us in our struggle, confronts oppression, and acts for justice. Because of love that God makes a way through the impossible to restore and redeem all creation. Mary knows, that she can declare herself ready, because God gifts us hope, peace, and joy, until we find our end in the perfection of love that is God’s very being. And as she does, so can we, because we too have beheld the great truth: nothing is impossible with God who is love.
Please enjoy a collection of sermons preached in recent months at the Kirk. If you have questions about the sermons, or attending a service reach out using the Contact Page.