Whom God loves, he loves to the end:
And not to their end, and to their death
But to his end.
And his end is that he might love them more.
Mom! Oh mom, oh mom, oh mom, oh mom, my 13 year-old moaned. My stomach hurts so much. Mama, please come.
I wished he’d called for Papa instead. Because Mama was nestled and snuggled in bed. The heat was set low and she didn’t want to go.
After a week of short nights, this, I’d hoped, would be her night for a long winter’s nap.
Love Rolls Out of Bed
Mom, please come, he cried again.
I rolled over. It was 1:04. I’d been with him at 9 and 10 and checked in again with meds at 11. Then to bed and sugarplums.
Coming, I called with a sigh.
“So this is Christmas,” I thought as I lay in the dark, groping about for glasses and socks.
I forced myself out of my snuggly, warm bed and shivering, stumbled my way toward the groans. Then halfway down the hall, it hit me.
That this IS Christmas. That this might actually be closer to the “real meaning of Christmas” than cozy and comfy and Silent Night by candlelight.
That, really, Christmas is more like leaving the warmth to show love in the cold.
This is love come down.
Love Came Down At Christmas
The creed says, “For us and for our salvation he came down.” Paul put it like this to the Philippians,
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself to death, even death on a cross.
I left my warm bed to care for my sick, pitiful child. The Son left the glories of heaven at his Father’s side- the bosom of the Father some translations say- to care for his sin-sick children.
Choosing discomfort to serve another: this is one measure of love.
A Measure of Love
Comfort is overrated. And when it comes to love comfort might not rate at all. In fact, our own discomfort might be a much more accurate indicator of our love for others.
When I weigh my love on this measure, I’m not very loving. Honestly, if Sam’s moans had not been so loud, I might have ignored them. Because I’m a master of excuses for staying in my comfort zones: I deserve this sleep. Jim can go. I warned this son about all that soda and candy and cake.
But God loves us too much to leave us as we are. He calls us to deny ourselves and prefer others and gives us the grace to do it. Christ gives us victory over our selfish, comfort-loving hearts.
We’re more than conquerors through him who loved us and more than conquerors don’t stay stuck in comfort zones. They step into discomfort for love’s sake.
They move into cold driveways and hard conversations.
Discomfort For Love’s Sake
Mom, will you come out and play PIG with me? Please?
That from the 11 year-old who invited me out for a game of PIG in the driveway. Who called me out of the a cozy house on a 29° day.
Sure Gabe, I’ll come. This time, love won.
It happened again when love pushed me to talk to a relative to whom talking didn’t come naturally.
So Mike, how is it going with work? I asked. It wasn’t easy, but it was good.
By the measure of choosing others’ “interests” over my comfort, my love is low. The fact that these events are memorable at all shows how vast the room for my love to grow.
Think how you would like to become a slug.
Puritan Anthony Burgess marveled too, at “discomfort” the Incarnation must have been for the Son.
He that was in the bosom of His Father- an expressing showing the intimate, close and secret delight and love He had from the Father. How unspeakable is it that He should deprive Himself of the sense of it? To put himself, as it were out of heaven and into hell? This is deeper love than ever we can imagine or conceive: no wonder the apostle calls it “the unsearchable riches of grace.”
This is deeper love than we mere mortals who dread to get out of bed in the cold middle of the night can imagine. The Son left the warmth of the heavenly Father for our sakes.
For our sake, Love left heaven for sick, cold earth. This is unsearchably rich grace.
C.S. Lewis made the comparison, too, in more graphic terms than Burgess.
The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
Yes, real love is humble and comes down and goes out into the cold. Out of warm beds and warm homes and comfortable conversation zones.
How Love Came Down
Love came out of heaven’s bright glory and was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger, because there was no place…in the inn.
My Bible footnote on Luke 2:7 says that Christ could have been born in a stable or cave, but that “mangers were often outdoors, so it’s possible that Jesus was born in the open air.”
Open air or stable or cave- they all sound uncomfortable and cold.
But that is how Love came down.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:9-11