Advent 2: Love – Ben Ewert
During each week of Advent we are focusing on a different aspect of Jesus’s character and lordship, asking ourselves the ever important question: “Who is this King of Glory?”. Are you ready? Love is our theme for this week and it calls for a bit of hard thinking. The word “love” has many different meanings and connotations in our world, as it always has had. It takes some digging to get at the heart of the matter as it pertains to Jesus. Personally, I am sometimes terrified but what I don’t understand about love. I know that the Spirit of God, in the process of teaching me to understand the love of Jesus, is going to demand something of me that I alone am not capable of giving. Or am I? After all, what is required is that “I give Him my heart”, as that great poem by Christina Rossetti, In the bleak midwinter, concludes. And yet something holds me back from accepting the love that this King of Glory offers, from bowing to it, from offering it to others. A constant tension like that of Advent. It has come, it is here and yet still is to come.
I find it helpful to look at the words of those who have come before. Let’s reflect on the words of 16th century poet and priest, George Herbert:
Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked any thing.
A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.*
We could spend hours on this poem! I’d like to highlight a couple of sections. One, the love of Christ is “quick-eyed” and, seeing us hesitate, will draw us into a relationship with Him, looking down our faults and smoothing our rough brows of excuses and worries. Secondly, there is a strong statement that places our shame and hesitation in the proper context. The love of Christ commands us, in light of our willful ignorance, to allow us to let Him serve us (as He has done and continues to do by His Spirit) saying, “you must sit down…and taste my meat.” The writer obeys and sits down to enjoy the feast.
I have to say that I find this ending both comforting and disturbing. Comforting because I believe the feast is one that Christ offers to us and compels us to share. To share His love now all the while looking forward to the feast at the restoration of heaven and earth at His coming again. Disturbing because, as the sons of Zebedee found out, to drink His cup and share His blessings also means that we will share in His suffering, that our sinful selves will be revealed (they will be, thanks be to God!). This is the tension that makes us hesitate. But let us be of good courage, Christ “quick-eyed and observing us grow slack” will draw us in, reminding us that He has borne our blame. May we extend the knowledge and practice of that Love that seeks the deepest care for one another, in our church community and in our city, in thought, word and deed.
*Here I am interpreting Herbert’s personification of Love as analogous to Christ and His saving work.