This final Sunday in Advent, we focus on love. The love God has for all of creation is important. The love Jesus has for all people leading to the chance for salvation is important. Without them the world would cease to exist - at least in any form we would recognize. As important as the love of God and the love of Jesus are, in the forefront of the scriptures this week is the love of people for God that affects the outcome of his kingdom on Earth.
In the Old Testament I think it is hard to find many figures who loved God more than the prophets. God gave them the thankless duty of delivering his message to the entire nation - from leaders to the least powerful. Most of their messages harshly condemned widespread behavior in the society that violated God’s rules. When they gave good news for an undisclosed point in the future very often the people realized that the good news was not even going to happen in the lifetime of their children (and sometimes even later). It takes a great deal of love to faithfully recite the message from God to the people. Isaiah faced that when the leader refused to do what God directed (ask for a sign). Instead he was forced to tell them of the sign (Messiah) who was to come some generations in the future.
In the Romans passage, Paul describes the process by which Jesus’s followers came to have the authority available to them: believe that Jesus was God’s son. After believing in Jesus, the believer is expected to love God enough to complete their part of God’s plan. In Paul’s case it meant giving up his prominent position within the Jewish religious elite to replace it with a New Covenant that also included the Gentiles. Early Christians abandoned tradition for a new teaching.
The story in Matthew would be vastly different if Mary and Joseph had not loved God as much as they did. Despite fantastical occurrences that friends, family, and society would have rejected outright in the moment, Mary and Joseph loved God enough to follow his direction and trust everything would work out as he promised. They too rejected traditional ways of behaving in the circumstances and followed the way God directed them to go.
We often refer to the power of love in trivial ways, but when we see the power love carried through these passages we begin to understand the transformative power of love in the world around us. As we reflect on the impact love had on the Christmas story we can also reflect on the many times Jesus gave directions to love. What would happen if we truly started loving with a love equal to that found in the scriptures today? Our world might be a little more like God wanted it to be. That’s the power of love.