Advent 2nd Sunday: Year C [10DEC12] Theme for week 2—Preparation & Love
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore, he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees. -Psalm 25:8-10
Today, as I have considered the theme of preparation and love, my mind and my heart both have been challenged a bit. I’ve returned to some previous writing (here and here) of mine on the topic of love and spent time with the defining characteristics of love as taught by the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 13). I’ve concluded that no matter how high the standard, it is a standard that God has empowered us to live by and the goal for which we are to strive.
Some of the questions I’m considering this week as I ponder love include the following: What is my “working” definition or standard for love? Is there a context where truly “knowing” someone equals loving them? Is this the way that God wants to intimately know us? Jesus taught us to love our enemies, so I’m curious about that. I wonder who my enemy is? How do I love someone that may not want my love? How do I express love to someone I hardly know or do not know at all? Do you even have to know someone to love them?
I’m also pondering what it means to prepare the way or preparing in general. In the context of my life, how do I define and execute the command to “prepare the way for the Lord.” Does this command and act of preparing look the same for everyone; are there universal constants? Is there a lowest common denominator; am I doing what is necessary for the life of my soul to be ready…prepared for the coming of the Lord?
I culled the definition or what I think represents the definition of love from the writings of Paul to the Corinthian church. In 1 Cor. 13, I found the following characteristics of love:
These are the things love is: Patient, Kind, Rejoices with truth, Always protecting, Always trusting, Always hopeful, Always persevering, and Never failing.
These are the things love is not: envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, easily angered, a keeper of wrong-doings, and love is not a delighter in evil.
If this is my mark, how do I measure myself? I believe ground zero is measured by how I love my wife and my children. These would be the closest people to me and arguably the “easiest” to love. Perhaps this is the starting point of my preparation. Does my love for them exhibit the characteristics determined by the definition from 1 Corinthians 13? If not, how might I be preparing myself to grow more faithfully in achieving that mark?
Part of preparation requires a plan, another part requires action and determination, and a third part requires sacrifice. Evelyn Underhill describes some of this thought with the following words:
It is this constant correlation between inward and outward that really matters; and this has always been the difficulty for human beings, because there are two natures in us, pulling different ways, and their reconciliation is a long and arduous task. Many people seem to think that the spiritual life necessarily requires a definite and exacting plan of study. It does not. But it does require a definite plan of life; and courage in sticking to the plan, not merely for days or weeks, but for years. New mental and emotional habits must be formed, all our interests re-arranged in new proportion round a new centre. This is something, which cannot be hurried; but, unless we take it seriously, can be infinitely delayed. Many people suggest by their behaviour that God is of far less importance than their bath, morning paper, or early cup of tea. The life of co-operation with Him must begin with a full and practical acceptance of the truth that God alone matters; and that He, the Perfect, always desires perfection. Then it will inevitably press us to begin working for perfection; first in our own characters and actions, next in our homes, surroundings, profession and country. We must be prepared for the fact that even on small and personal levels this will cost a good deal; frequently thwarting our own inclinations and demanding real sacrifice. –Evelyn Underhill
Indeed, how then do we prepare. I plan to explore these themes (love and preparation) in more detail as the week progresses. I hope you will explore them with me.
God is with me, but more, God is within me, giving me existence. Let me dwell for a moment on God’s life-giving presence in my body, my mind, my heart, and in the whole of my life. God is not foreign to my freedom. Instead the Spirit breathes life into my most intimate desires, gently nudging me towards all that is good. I ask for grace to let myself be enfolded by the Spirit.
How can a young person keep their way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Heavenly and merciful father, it is from you that redemption comes to us, your adopted children. Look with favor on the family you love. Give true freedom to all who believe in Christ, and bring us all alike to our eternal heritage. We pray this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.