What is the ‘love’ in Advent?

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Advent is the season of expectant waiting. We get ready for Christmas during Advent. We look ahead. We anticipate Christ coming into the world. During the four weeks of Advent, there is a theme for each week. The order of the themes varies a little from church to church, but they include hope, love, joy, and peace. What is the ‘love’ in Advent?

We read in 1 John 4.16b, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” If God is love, then the God incarnate is love incarnate. Paul Tillich writes, “God and love are not two realities; they are one.” The love we recognize during Advent is the love that is God.

This love-that-is-God is distinguishable from some of the colloquial uses of the word “love” in the twenty-first century. Someone might say, “I love pizza,” or “I love sailing.” To be clear, those who love pizza or sailing or books or a particular movie mean, “This is satisfying,” or “I really like this or that.” Love goes beyond these informal affinities for everyday items or activities. That is, love-that-is-God means giving oneself completely in the sense of John 3.16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

The love of Advent goes beyond this world. It goes beyond gifts, parties, celebrations, decorations, and everything associated with this season. It also goes beyond the concerns of life that continue through this season and beyond. The love of Advent transcends daily worries, the over-charged credit card bills that come in the new year, partisan politics, pain, disease, school, work, and every human hurt. God is love and God is with us (Matthew 1.23).

During this Advent season, it would be easy to let each of the themes pass by quickly. Each one can feel like a brief stop on our way to Christmas. The challenge is to pause and reflect on what the Advent themes mean. Beginning this Advent season, let the Love-that-is-God both carry you and shine through you.

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