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Thursday
Jan042018

Advent Love

In a remote outpost of the empire, an area called Judea, a small town called Nazareth, a man and woman begin a long journey. She is almost nine months pregnant. They head south, toward Bethlehem, his hometown, to be counted in a census. It is a hard journey. He walks mostly. She rides on their donkey. Some nights they sleep out under the stars. Finally, they arrive in Bethlehem, a small village. The only inn is already full. The innkeeper, seeing the woman’s condition, offers the stable out back. That night, her labor begins and the baby comes. Together they wrap their infant son in the bands of clean cloth they have brought along for that purpose. 
  
Each Christmas the world stops to listen to the story because of the possibility that it contains truth: truth about God, truth about us, truth about who we are and who we are meant to be.
Scottish poet George MacDonald wrote,
They all were looking for a king
To slay their foes and lift them high:
Thou cam’st, a little baby thing
That made a woman cry.
  
The story says that the very essence of God is not what we expect—power and majesty—but vulnerable love, love born among us in an infant. “God so loved the world, that God gave his only Son,” the Bible says (John 3:16). “God is love . . ., and those who abide in love, abide in God and God abides in them.”
  
That is what the story wants from us—that we abide in love, that we love one another, that we love those no one else loves, that we love life and this beautiful world, that we love God.
  
Dr. Henry Betts, founder and former CEO of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is an advocate for people with disabilities. He tells a story about a young man in the Rehab Institute, a paraplegic teenager, who became terribly depressed, stopped communicating with anyone, was virtually speechless, wouldn’t get out of bed, assumed a fetal position all day long, and went into what Dr. Betts called total withdrawal.
  
The staff put another patient in the room with him, a three-year-old boy who had been severely burned. The teenager turned his back and ignored the little boy at first, then began to notice and watch him and listen to what nurses and doctors were saying. And a miracle happened: the teenager started to care about his little roommate. Before long he was pressing the call button, telling the nurses to bring pain medicine, nagging—maybe he needed some water, some more food, he wasn’t eating enough; he started to tell the nurses and doctors what he observed and advised them as to treatment and therapy. The teenager started to care, to have compassion, to love—and to live.
  
The world stops at the conclusion of Advent, at Christmas, when everything is quiet, and listens to a story about God, about love, about life, about what it means to be alive; a story that invites us to open our hearts and to love one another.
  
The world stops and in some way all of us: old, young, believers and non-believers
“come to Bethlehem to see
him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore, on bended knee
Christ, the Lord, the newborn King”.

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