Luke 1:39-55/ Micah 5:2-5a/ Hebrews 10:5-9
What Love Looks Like
The Red Cross Ad Campaign
Long time ago, when I was still living with my parents, The Red Cross in Korea did a big campaign for blood donation. Outside the Red Cross General Hospital, there was a big ad with the words, “Love is a verb.” As a language geek, I took notice of that grammatical term.
And now that I look back, having learned about marketing from Terry O’Reilly’s CBC podcast Under the Influence, that was a fantastic ad campaign; it was catchy and made you think. How good was that campaign? I still remember it and am talking about it right now after 30 years or so! That’s how good it was.
What is Love?
Over the years, I have had a lot of opportunities to reflect on what love is, and still now I get to the same conclusion; love is not love unless we can see and feel it. Saying you love someone is not enough. You have to show you love them with deeds, not just words. Today’s scripture readings teach us what love looks like in God’s reign, which may look different from our human ideas of love.
Mary and Her Song of Praise
Today’s gospel text is so lovey dovey that we might not notice how shockingly subversive the message is. Two pregnant women, relatives, getting together in solidarity is heart-warming, and those of us who are biological mothers might go “Aww.” But let’s skip to Mary’s song of praise, also known as The Magnificat.
This song shows us how subversive the gospel message is. If the rulers could hear someone say these words, that person would surely be in trouble. Because Christmas stirs up such a nice and romantic feeling in people, we might ignore the true meaning of Christmas as it is written in the Bible.
This song of praise is a precursor to what this baby will grow up to teach, live and die for. The truth about God’s reign is that God is on the side of the marginalized and rejects powerful people who use their power to oppress and dominate others instead of loving and helping them.
Love, Peace, and Justice
I have mentioned many times that, in God’s reign, peace is closely linked with justice. There cannot be true peace without justice. Love is the same thing. True love has to pursue peace and justice. I heard people say that justice is what love looks like, socially. If we love someone, we do not ignore their pain and suffering. If that suffering comes from a systemic injustice, we do not ignore that injustice. We get angry together, speak out, and fight the system. That is what love looks like.
Prophet Micah and the Book of Hebrews
When the prophets prophesied about the coming Messiah, they also focused on peace and justice. We read in the Book of Micah the anticipation and hope that God’s chosen ruler will bring peace and liberate God’s people. Micah taught us that the coming Messiah would be a ruler of peace, and Hebrews chapter 10 taught us what God’s peace and love is about.
Religious hypocrites of all ages offer sacrifices and offering but their hearts are not filled with God’s love. What God wants from us is not gifts and ceremony; it is for our hearts and actions to be the embodiments of God’s love.
As The Red Cross Korea said, love is a verb. Love is action. If we cannot see it and feel it, it is not true love. Love requires our testimonies in life. We testify to God’s love by not ignoring our siblings in need. We also do not ignore the systemic suffering of our siblings. We do not stay silent at the injustice that causes our siblings to suffer. Works of charity, social activism, and our daily kindness; this is what love looks like.
True Meaning of Christmas
We are celebrating this season by learning the true meaning of Christmas and the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The four themes of Advent (hope, peace, joy, and love) are the essence of the Gospel. They teach us that God’s reign that this Holy Baby will grow up to teach promotes hope for a peaceful and just society based on God’s unconditional and indiscriminatory love, which will bring ALL God’s people joy, not only to some.
In this culture where Christmas has been highly romanticized and commercialized, let us remember what our Jesus stood for, since, as they say, “He is the reason for the season.” And let us learn the love of God’s reign that is essentially connected to social justice, which favours the lowly and the oppressed. Let us go out and get ready for Christmas by practising this love, by using our time, money, and energy bringing God’s hope to those who need it.