“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7
On this fourth week of Advent, we light the candle of love. In this week I can’t help but think about the lyrics to the song: Love Came Down at Christmas. Because that is exactly what happened. “Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine; Love was born at Christmas; star and angels gave the sign.”
God sent God’s son into this world to be born as a baby. Jesus became the incarnate God to live life as a human being so God could understand us and what it means to be human including offering his life as a sacrifice in atonement for our sins. All done out of God’s perfect love for each one of us. All of it done because our identity is simply that we are children of God, created in God’s image, and fiercely loved by God. Nothing more…nothing less. We are the ones who try to add so many identifiers to who we are that we identify ourselves into isolation. We look for others who are just like us but the more we add to our “identity” the further we distance ourselves from other people who aren’t just like us.
Because here is the thing: we only want to love those who are easy to love and the more we perceive others to be like us the easier it is to love them. But then we have God who came down and was born into this world as a baby because God loved us so much. If there was ever an opposites situation this would be it. And yet even though God is perfect and we are not. God is all powerful and we are not. God is all loving and we certainly are not. God loved us so much that God became like us.
What happened in the incarnation…when Jesus was born into this world…is that God had empathy for who we are as human beings. Which is precisely what God is asking us to have for all people because all people are fiercely loved by God. But what exactly does it mean to have empathy for someone outside ourselves? Empathy means, according to dictionary.com, my go to dictionary of the 21st century…that we are able to identify psychologically with or vicariously experience the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
So…when we meet someone, we are able to understand them better, because we are able to put ourselves in their position. While we may not agree with some of the choices they are making or have made, empathy allows us to set aside our feelings so we can understand their feelings. And once we understand what they are feeling, we can respond thoughtfully and with love to what they are experiencing in life.
This holiday season will be like no other. There will be those of us who are comfortable gathering with our families. There will be those of us who will zoom with our families as we are unable to gather together. There will be those of us who will not gather at all. My hope for everyone is that as you celebrate Christmas you are able to offer love and empathy to your family members who think and act differently from you. However the holidays work out for you, know that God is with you and God loves you very much!
May your Christmas be filled with hope, peace, joy, and love.