Training in Love

· Advent,Theology,Love

The final week of Advent in 2023 lasts only a day! That’s not much time to think about what it means to be trained to love—to think in loving ways and to act lovingly toward others. So let me reflect on how I spend Christmas Eve.

I have a sacrosanct tradition. While my husband hosts an late-evening service, and while the children are sleeping all snug in their beds, I wrap Christmas presents. Two movies entertain me while I do this. One is Scrooge, Alastair Sim’s portrayal of Dickens’s redeemed anti-hero in A Christmas Carol. It reminds me that even the worst among us can change. The second is, admittedly, far less meaningful. I usually watch Love, Actually earlier in the evening when I’m busy organizing which gifts will be wrapped in bags and which gifts will be wrapped with paper.

Its a terrible, terrible movie. Nonetheless, it begins with a wonderful cold open of real, live people meeting loved ones at the airport. And throughout this montage, we hear the upper crust accent of Hugh Grant saying,

I use this as an excuse to watch the rest of the film which, on the whole, demonstrates very little of what love, actually, is.

I know I’m not the first person to say that. So maybe I need to speak to what love actually is. I’ll stop playing with the movie title now and move on to scripture. Promise.

We often hear it at weddings. It’s not irrelevant to the love between spouses. But Paul delivered it to the whole church.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable; it keeps no record of wrongs; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4–8).

Here Paul uses a certain kind of language to describe love: verbs. He doesn’t talk about love as based in the way we feel about other people. Rather, love has everything to do with the way we discipline our attitudes and our actions toward other people.

Love waits without complaining. Love conveys meaning in considerate ways. Love doesn’t resent another’s success. Love is humble. Love doesn’t diminish someone else to look good. Love doesnt manipulate. Love doesn’t hold grudges. Love isnt secretly pleased by someone else’s failure. Love is truth. Love is universal. Love is endless.

And this love is to be lived out in our relationships with God and with all other people.

The love of God is not made up of fuzzy feelings. It’s a mark of character. Jesus loved others not because everyone he encountered warmed the cockles of his heart. Jesus loved us because he considerd us worth loving.

As we spend this day of Advent busy with the last-minute doings, let’s take some time to remember both that we are waiting for a God to show us true love, and that God is already present with us today. So love, actually, is all around.

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