Advent: Love

When I was a young seminary student, I took a class in New Orleans. While there, I visited Desire Street, at the time one of the most dangerous and poverty-stricken areas in the United States. It was there I met a man who moved his entire family into that neighborhood because he felt called to minister to the people there. I was challenged by his commitment to engage in his calling so fully. I was inspired by a love so great for a people he was willing to relocate just to be near them.

There was something powerful about his choice to not only serve people who didn’t look like him, but to love them enough to immerse his family in their world. They gave up everything—any of the comforts and security this world can offer—to be close to the people they served. Their proximity mattered. It communicated their love and commitment to the neighborhood in a way nothing else could.

Nothing says love like choosing to make someone else’s home your own.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” I love the idea that we all want to get back home. Even if we can’t make it happen every year, we dream of it. We wish it were so. We want our loved ones close. It doesn’t always work out that way. Close friends and family members move away for jobs or dreams or any number of other life circumstances. But at the holidays, we always want to come home. Why? Because proximity matters. Being physically close is important, especially during special seasons and moments. If we can’t always be together, at least we can be together at Christmas. Even if for the briefest of moments, we can share the same home.

Throughout Scripture, we encounter a God who wants to be physically close to His people, who wants to make His home with us. Way back in Genesis—when Adam and Eve sinned and hid—we see God, walking through the garden, asking, “Where are you?” In Exodus, God has His people build a tabernacle, and, later, the temple. For what purpose? So that He can dwell among them.

In the Gospel of John, the writer describes what happened at Christmas this way, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” One paraphrase of this verse reads, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” There’s no greater commitment or display of love than someone who is willing to leave what’s comfortable and move into a new neighborhood, just to be close and share the same space. At Christmas, God chose to make His home with us. He left the comfort of Heaven and settled in next door. He loved us enough, not only to serve us, but to immerse Himself in our world.

This Christmas, know you are loved. You have a God who wants to be close to you. In your weakness and brokenness, when you were without hope in this chaotic world, God came near. You have a God who chose your mess over His own comfort. In your uncertainty, you are loved because He is near. In your fear, you are loved because He is near. In your frailty, you are loved because He is near. In your loneliness, depression or anxiety, you are loved because He is near. In your joy, celebration and feelings of warmth, you are loved because He is near. God became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. There is no stronger or clearer indication of His love for you.

God is at home this Christmas, because He is at home with you.

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