advent conspiracy [give more]: Andrea Alford
I walked the aisles of WalMart on Black Friday (I am almost ashamed to admit this) with tired and already frustrated shoppers pushing through the chaos, buggy-to-buggy, and I thought about what each of us was after: that big HDTV at a crazy low price, those $5 Disney pajamas that the grandkids will just love, the shiny new set of stainless steel cookware Mom’s had her eye on…and I realized: in giving gifts to the ones that we love, this is the price we’re willing to pay to chase some stuff. Standing in a massive retail store at midnight with maybe a thousand other people, digging through piles of mass-produced things for which there is mostly no legitimate need, in search of that perfect gift. Then we wonder why it always seems to elude us, and we search for more the next year – surely if we just give more.
Then I remembered what it is those of us who are believers are actually celebrating. The birth of Christ. The beginning of our way to peace with God. And I thought about how that peace was actually achieved – not just in Jesus’ birth, but in His life, His death and His resurrection.
Oswald Chambers writes of the grave error in forgetting the great price at which our justification as believers was achieved; that we tend to settle onto the path of sanctification, leaving behind the memory of the monumental cost at which we were first able to be placed on that journey. In reconciling us to God, Jesus literally offered all He could give – His very life.
But in laying down His life for us, what was He really giving us?
You could say forgiveness. You could say mercy. You could say grace, peace, favor with God, a second chance, eternal life…any of these answers would be correct. But it was Jesus Himself who summed up exactly what He was giving us when he said, “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”
Love. The greatest love one could possibly give to another because it comes at the price of life. The gift was Love: paving the way for mercy, leading us to forgiveness, showering us with grace, reconciling us to the Father Himself. The gift of His life was a gift of way-making Love.
So how do I follow that example this Christmas? How can that help me resist the urge to spend more and, instead, give more? I could literally give my physical life for another. But what about the day-to-day? Can I give greater love there? And how exactly do I gift wrap that? I think the apostle Paul has an idea or two on the subject.
Love is patient. Maybe that means resisting the urge to barrel past the snail’s-pace-shopper in Kroger, letting my angry high heels pound out their passive-aggressive impatience on the concrete floor. Maybe that means stopping my all-important holiday baking, cleaning and planning to sit and really spend time with my daughter.
Love is kind. So I’ll tell an employee how well she did instead of just thanklessly piling another project on her desk. And I’ll stop to look at people – really look at them – and search for the spots on their souls that might need a salve.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Perhaps I should spend a little less time looking down my jealous nose from atop my righteous high horse and a little more time on the ground, in humble gratitude, realizing that my greatest possession is a gift I could never in a million years hope to earn.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (This one hurts a little because it’s where I seem to fail the most.) Just the same, I’ll hold my tongue when I’m tempted to dish the dirt, I’ll do what’s best for someone else even if it’s not what I particularly want. I’ll resist the urge to be sensitive and touchy with those around me, and when I am offended, I will pay it no heed. (Dear me, I hope none of my sisters are reading this – will they ever hold me to it!)
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. So I’ll seek the truth and, knowing I will find it, rejoice as often as it appears.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Then I will trust His protection when I walk in love, I’ll assume the best about every person, I’ll choose to see the light at the end of every tunnel, and I’ll refuse to give up until we get there.
Love never fails. And because of this, I have both the promise of victory and the enormous responsibility of carrying on in this manner. Love will never come to an end. Love will never lose, will never be defeated. And so I will walk on…in love.
As I look at all of these ways that Love manifests itself in us, I see that in every one, I will be giving. Giving my right to myself, giving my time, giving my space, giving my energy, giving my mercy, giving my life…wait a minute. My mercy? My life? And so I realize how the gift comes full circle: this time, this space, this mercy, this life I am called to give, none of these are my own. All of this came to me, came to you, through Jesus laying down His life for us. Indeed, First John says that we love because He first loved us. So this year and hopefully every year to come, I’ll remember that what I’m called to give is already bought and paid for – my task is but to give. Will you remember this with me?
And as we navigate this season of giving together, may our hands spread open wide and generously release the precious gift of God’s Love so that the people walking in darkness will see a great light, and on those living in the land of deep darkness, a light will dawn.
This Christmas season at FN, we’ve decided to join into the Advent Conspiracy. As a part of celebrating together, we’ve asked several people to write about each week’s topic here on our blog. And we’d like for you to join in too: share your reactions, plans, or experiences in the comments. Or, if you post on your own blog, leave a link in the comments. Post pictures to our Facebook wall. Tweet us @fellowshipnorth. Let’s use our online space as a community – one that will conspire together this Christmas season!