I can’t tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as commanded by the Father. But permit me a reminder, friends, and this is not a new commandment but simply a repetition of our original and basic charter: that we love each other. Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love. This is the first thing you heard, and nothing has changed. -2 John 4-6
I am on the search for the perfect rendition of O Holy Night. One that uses all three verses. That doesn’t sounds cheesy. That brings a sense awe, splendor, and majesty to all who hear it. That leaves everyone fallen humbly to their knees before the King of Kings. I’ve encountered a few that have come close, but my criteria is yet to be fully met in anything I’ve heard.
Every line in this entire song is potent with truth and beauty, putting into lyrical words the essence of Christmas and in fact the entire Gospel. We move from the depravity and fallenness of mankind to redemption and the rule of the Kingdom of God in a matter of minutes, each stanza immersed in gospel truth.
Buried in the thick array of words, (and often left out) is a brief line that can re-orient our entire approach to Christmas, and to Christianity.
Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love.
Not your typical Christmas song wishing happiness and cheer to anyone who feels a glow inside their hearts. In the middle of our depraved human condition and the future Kingdom of our coming Lord we are urged to love one another. It is a commandment, not merely good advice or an ideal that this season elevates. It is law.
It may be a little easy to extend love to others around Christmas. After all its fun to give gifts to others, to make special food for those visiting, to host parties for friends. And everyone’s exterior world may be a little more merry and a little more bright so we are able to find enough love in our heart to drop some coins in the salvation army bucket outside the grocery store, or tack on a bonus to our employee’s check.
But this song is talking about a love that goes greater than the feeling of Christmas goodwill and further than the holiday season.
This is a love that perseveres into January, February and the darkest months of the year. It is a love that prevails in spite of the obstacles and trials life puts in its way. It is a love that is extended to all, and lavished out on the hardest to love.
This love that we’re commanded to carry is to follow in the example of Christ that went all the way to the cross. And though we remember it now under the brightly shining stars, it is to be carried out to the point of thorns, nails, and death.
We love because He first loved us.
We live now in between the story of the first advent and the second advent, in between the incarnation and the parousia. And our commandment here is to love. And until we choose to incorporate love into the center of our Christmas, all our celebrations and songs will be nothing but clanging cymbals and resounding gongs and we will gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.