“Love Wins” December 18, 2022
From the 29th chapter of Exodus, the Lord speaks to us saying, “ 45 I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.”
and with your permission, I’d like to revisit Paul’s opening words in his letter to the churches of Rome where he writes, “The sacred writings contain preliminary reports by the prophets on God’s Son. His descent from David roots him in history; his unique identity as Son of God was shown by the Spirit when Jesus was raised from the dead, setting him apart as the Messiah, our Master. Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus. You are who you are through this gift and call of Jesus Christ! And I greet you now with all the generosity of God our Father and our Master Jesus, the Messiah.
Greetings, and to borrow the words of the Apostle Paul: “And I greet you now with all the generosity of God our Father and our Master Jesus, the Messiah.
(sigh) when I read the letters of Paul I can’t help but wish letter writing would come back in style, if only that we might have permission to open and close them the same way that Paul was so skilled at doing.
So how about ‘I greet you now on this the 4th and final Sunday of the Advent season and wish you all the many blessings as we prepare to celebrate the coming of our Lord.’
I wish that I could comment about how wonderful it is to finally have a Christmas that is not Muddled by the presence of COVID, but it seems we are not quite there yet. And I wish that I could say that this Christmas will be glorious and wonderful and one that we will never forget, but you know, that remains to be seen, doesn’t it?
But what we do have – and of this I am certain – Is a gathering of believers who have come together simply to celebrate the fact that our God does indeed love us so much that he came to us in the flesh to make that love real.
The 4th Sunday of Advent is traditionally the Sunday of love. We are all aware that the love of Christ is not a gushy, mushy kind of love. It is, instead, a love born of deep compassion. It’s a love that is warm and merciful and if it is not fully perfect, then I’d have to say it’s pretty darn close. It is to this kind of love that we come together to be a part of: to sense And to feel and if the spirit moves us, to let go of our troubles and be swept up in the great love that is Jesus Christ.
“so how’s your Christmas going?’ people might ask, and more often than not we’ll reply, “Oh I don’t know. I just can’t seem to get in the spirit of it.” but you know, more often than not, if we’re paying attention, the spirit will get into us. “Love came down at Christmas,” the old Carol says, I find it wonderful that we. who strive to emulate Christ, have such an example of love to follow; perfect love, love that strengthens and love that forgives. it’s a love that wins our hearts, that wins our trust, and yes, that wins us over. Now, that’s the spirit of Christmas.
Now before I start sounding too much like a Hallmark card, Let me bring up one point from our gospel in Matthew that literally shouts out how it is that love wins .
Traditionally, on this the 4th Sunday of Advent, we read from the prophets as well as the apostle Paul, but the main character on this the Sunday of love is Joseph. I used to think this was an unlikely choice. I mean. Joseph? Really? From the very start, this poor man found himself on the outside looking in.
When Mary announced that she was pregnant, he knew the child was not his. Most men in this situation would probably have a giant fit. They would shame the woman, Demand a divorce, and possibly insist upon punishment. The punishment, I might add, for adultery at the time was the death; death by stoning.
but not Joseph. Verse 19 reads, “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[ did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” because Joseph was faithful to the law, he knew what was in store: public humiliation, shame to her entire family. and even Mary’s death.
and because Joseph knew the law, he knew there were only two ways this could go: either expose his wife as an adulteress or accept this child as his own. But love wins at this point in the story, Because even before Joseph had a hint Mary’s pregnancy was far from normal, he had made the hard choice, the right choice. the choice of saving grace for this young girl that he hardly even knew.
Love wins And we would do well To consider this man called Joseph. He was a simple carpenter. He had no status, no prestige, and certainly didn’t have a lot of money. What he had in the eyes of God. However, was priceless.
“make good choices.” a mother yells through the car window as she drops her kids off to school. now I have to confess that I most certainly do not come from a generation where making good choices were discussed very often. those were simpler times: making good choices translated into something like “If you goof up. you’re gonna get it!” see what I mean? Simple and straight to the point; The thinking at the time must have been that every time we offer up choices to our kids they end up making the wrong one, anyway. so why waste our time.
but as we get older, that all changes hopefully. We learn to be less focused on ourselves and we find the value of doing onto others the same way we wish they would do unto us. Choices are made not so much for gain or for pleasure or for glory because they come from the heart. If we do this right, if we walk in the presence of the one who loves us more than anything, then love wins. Love wins every time.
Do you know what’s fun? The next time you find yourself out in public (and yes. we are finally doing that a lot nowadays) but the next time you’re out in public, look around you. look around you in pick out the wackiest. most bizarre looking person in the room. that’s the kid with the orange pants and blue hair. That’s the old guy who forgot to zip his fly or the woman screaming at the top of her lungs at her children. Pick out that one person and then ask yourself, “Could I love this person?” The answer, of course, is yes.
Our stories in the Christian faith are not those of conquest and domination and storing up great wealth. No. our stories, including that of Joseph, are tales of God’s love and the wonderful way that this love, manifested in the Christ, have shaped this world for the better.
So yes, the Christmas story Is a story That never gets old. Consider Joseph. Was he only a pawn that our God used? Of course not in fact, it just might be that Joseph is the one character that may speak to us the best. for it was the loving heart of Joseph that in the midst of a bad situation proved to us once again that love wins; love wins.
Amen and Shalom