As we make our way round the Advent wreath, we come to the fourth candle: love.
I thought I had something pretty profound to say about love needing to be all consuming, in the sense that life needs to be full of love in order to be fully lived. Much like the very principle of a candle where the flame is light, heat and energy for the world around it through the fuel which is the candle’s wax. And I’m sure there’s something in that.
But then I got this message from Brook’s mom about something she’d written. It went like this: “I know it's beautiful around the world. I love the beauty in the world. I love to see the world. I love to go places. I love the warm fires the hot chocolate. I love the love in the world. That is my favourite of all!” Brook’s 6 years old. The spelling’s a little more creative in the original.
I love what she wrote.
I love that there’s probably lots of parents who could say that their little child wrote or said something similar. I hear about the conversations they have with their little ones and I hope you do, too. We all need to, especially at Christmas. Because it is that simple.
We’ll hear the stories of Jesus teaching us about love, the healing, the miracles, the parables, the grace, the living of a life full of love that leads to that one simple command to love as Jesus showed us. All the complexities of a life will be lived out in a far too short lifetime on the way to the cross. And we’ll examine it in detail and ponder it and think about it, as we should. There is much to learn.
But perhaps, when we light the candle for love, we might think less about all there is to learn and more about the simplicity of a child-like love, one that’s open, innocent, unconditional, honest, fearless and true. It’s easy to dismiss that with “children don’t know any better, they’ll learn from experience.” But what if it were the opposite? What if, when it comes to love - and hope, peace and joy, for that matter - what if they do know better because they have no inclination not to?
Remember that story of the very grown up Jesus telling the disciples that we need to be like children in order to come to the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 18:3 and 19:14.) Child-like, not childish. That can be a battle if you’ve got a lifetime of experience that encourages you to be fearful and protect yourself. No wonder the disciples found it hard. Of course, if we lived a lifetime into that childlike openness and loved others fearlessly, they might live that way, too, and others who experience their love would, too, and so on, and the world could be changed.
I know, maybe that’s a little simplistic. Like a child, even.
Christmas is all about a child, though, and we take this time in Advent to prepare ourselves to come to this child, to come to the manger and marvel at the story and wonder at how God comes to us in the simplest way.
And that’s just it. Maybe Jesus’ words are the wisdom of experience. In this story of a child born in a stable is God loving us, loving like a child, fully, completely, unconditionally, all encompassing and all embracing. God knows it's beautiful around the world. God loves the beauty in the world. God loves to see the world. God loves to go places. God loves the warm fires and the hot chocolate. God loves the love in the world. And I bet that’s God’s favourite part of all.