Let us pray:
Behold, The Lord is doing a new thing! Illumine our minds and hearts that we may feel the Spirit’s movement through these Advent days and in the scriptures before us. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
In our Advent journey, we have gone from Hope to Peace and from Peace to Joy. Now we arrive at the heart of the matter, the center of joy where God fills us up and from which we return, moving back outward to engage one another and the world. As we moved toward Hope, so we moved toward Peace; as we moved deeper into Christ’s Joy, so now we move to Love. Love deep in ourselves, where compassionate acceptance of who we are, regardless of our flaws, as God’s children, is met and embraced by our loving God, instilling and implanting within us the capabilities, and indeed the command, to let love so infuse us that we in turn love others – all others – with the compassionate love God has given to us. From the place where we meet and are met by God’s joy, like in the center of a labyrinth, we pause and rest, then turn and begin the outward journey with love our constant guide. And we need this guide, especially in seasons of our lives when other outside forces threaten to overwhelm us.
Emmy Arnold writes,
“Even though the celebration of Christmas is exploited for business profit and used for selfish purposes; even though the meaning of Christmas is often corrupted; in spite of all this, we all feel the impulse at this time to think of others, to show love to others, to be there for others. … It is the feeling of human solidarity, the exulting joy in one another, the centrality of mutual love. The brightness and fragrance of the living Christmas tree under which Christmas gifts are laid – here is light and warmth, symbolizing life and love.”
Behold, the angel says in Luke, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people…” (Luke 2:10) This is what the message is! This is how the peace that passes all understanding becomes joy in our midst, which gives birth to love!
“The Christmas star in the night sky, the shining of [Christmas lights] in the night – all this is the sign that light breaks into darkness. Though we see about us the darkness of unrest, of family discord, of class struggle, of competitive jealousy and of national hatred, the light shall shine and drive it out.”
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)
“Wherever the Christmas Child is born in a heart, wherever Jesus begins his earthly life anew – that is where the life of God’s love and of God’s peace [and I would add, Christian joy] dawns again.”
And there, there in that dawning, we find where a rosebud of hope has appeared, where a slowly opening flower of peace has grown into a rose of joy, and where joy, fully grown, brings a new birth of love in us to give away.
That is not to say love is easy, however. Think of the metaphor just used. The rose is a flower of incredible beauty, sometimes quite simple, sometimes quite complex. It has a lifespan, which grows and changes. A rosebud becomes a full-flower in bloom, yes, but it also fades and petals fall one by one, leaving behind the reddish-orange rosehips in its place. Yet, in the rosehips, there lie sleeps the mystery of life – the seeds of new plants waiting for their time to grow. True, a rose plant is perennial, and its roots often time become strong and gnarled and deep. But in wintertime the rose goes dormant.
I am reminded there are times in our lives when we feel like love has gone dormant. These are not easy times, and often require us to seek help, and we are blessed to be able to have help in learning to love again. Similarly, there are times in the spiritual life when it feels like God – who is love – seems far away from us, and we wonder, why? Why does God not stay with us and keep us safe in love for always? Perhaps the answer lies in the metaphor of dormancy. Not that God has gone dormant, but our hearts have gone dormant. Not that God has left, but that our ability to perceive where God is has for a time left us when we allow the weight of the world to bear down upon our shoulders.
However, in that space of dormancy, we can be renewed again, a Christmas Rose for others. Those small hard rosehips show stark against the snow like drops of blood; they can remind us again – and again – that it is not God who sleeps, it is we who have fallen asleep. Even Jesus lay dormant in death before rising again on Easter morn. Even as Jesus is born for us in this season, so too the season will come when Jesus dies for us; that is why he came. Through it all, through all this dying and rising, God loves us still! “For God so loved the world,” says the gospel of John.
I wonder, what would it mean for us to truly become Christmas roses, to bear God’s love into the world? Johann Arnold has something to say about that:
“It means fighting the impulse to live for ourselves, instead of for others. It means choosing generosity over greed. It also means living humbly, rather than seeking influence and power. Finally, it means being ready to die again and again – to ourselves, and to every self-serving opinion or agenda.”
I don’t know about you, but considering my place in the garden of God’s rose bushes, knowing that Christ has come, will come, and eternally comes into our hearts gives me hope in the seeds of God’s divine love, gives me peace to take the path of Christ’s suffering way, gives me joy in the journey, and ignites in me love once more. A labyrinthine Advent path has brought us this far; now let us wait in love’s patient stillness for Christ’s coming.
May all glory be unto the One for whom we wait, the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
Question for Reflection
Where do you see the light of Christ magnified in your person, your life, and the ways of your family and community? Notice in the coming week one time each day when the light of Christ is made present for you by others.
Household Prayer: Morning
Thank you, good and gracious God, for the morning light, for another day in which to live out what it means that you have magnified my soul and the souls of those around me in this world.
Teach me the meaning of “Let it be.” Show me how to trust; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
Good and gracious God, we give you thanks that you have made incarnate in your world the breath of life, the life of hope. Keep us safe throughout the night that in the morning we may again rejoice and live in peace with all creation; in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Emmy Arnold, “Christmas Joy,” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2001). 129
 Johann Christoph Arnold, “Be Not Afraid,” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2001). 156-157