Dec. 20, 2015 (Advent 4)
Waiting for Love
Today, let’s talk about love. Ah, love… Some say, “We can’t live with it and we can’t live without it.” People tend to abuse the “love talk” and speak of love too easily. There are three different kinds of love in the Greek language; agape (the love of God and other unconditional loves, such as the love of parents for their children), phileo (love of brothers and sisters, including friendship), and eros (romantic love). Although there are different kinds of love, there is something in common in all forms of love, if it is to truly be called love. I’m going to tell you about an important character in the Harry Potter series. There’s a major spoiler alert, so if you haven’t read the books and plan to read it in the future please cover your ears until I give you a sign.
Harry, who finds out that he is a wizard, goes on to a wizarding school called Hogwarts. There, he meets a very unpleasant teacher who seems to despise him for no apparent reason. His name is Snape. Throughout his 7 school years, Harry finds out little by little that Snape used to be Harry’s father’s classmate, and that his father James and his cool friends used to bully him. Along the series, the readers keep wondering if Snape is on the good side or the dark side. He seems to be on the good side but then he has a mark of the dark wizarding organization on his arm. Then he kills the headmaster of Hogwarts who is the leader of the good side. But when everyone, including the characters in the book, believe that he is on the dark side, in the end, Harry finds out the greatest secret that Snape had been hiding so perfectly; he was in love with Harry’s mother Lily from their childhood, joined the dark side and unwittingly had Harry’s parents killed by the Dark Lord, as a remorse joined the good side, and according to the instruction of the headmaster, protected Harry from harm in secret. His allegiance to the good side had to be a secret because if the Dark Lord finds out the truth, he would have been killed instead of acting as a spy for the good side. He spent 17 years working for the good side in secret, and in the end made a sacrifice while handing Harry the ultimate weapon (metaphorical) to defeat the Dark Lord. He endured suspicions, hatred, attacks from his allies because they thought he was on the dark side. And he died fighting the dark side in secret and alone. He did it all for the love of a woman, and the good side to which she belonged.
There is something we can learn from Snape about love; love requires patience and sacrifices, big or small. If you can’t be patient or make sacrifices for the people you “love”, that is not really love. There are a lot of characters in the Bible who patiently waited for something and made sacrifices for it. Let’s meet Mary, the poor teenage girl who had the carry the burden of having the Christ child for the love of God and God’s plan for humanity. Kimberley, meet Mary. Mary, meet Kimberley.
In the Gospel of Luke, Angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her about what was to happen to her. She was very young and unmarried, which means she would have been doomed for being pregnant according to the Jewish Law. You can imagine how scary it might have been for her. Yet, she said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Today’s scene comes after her encounter with the angel. After hearing the scary news from the angel, Mary goes to visit her relative Elizabeth, who is carrying the baby John the Baptist in her belly. These two women support each other into carrying God’s plan, whatever it might be. But this is the essence of the Advent hope; we are waiting for God’s will to manifest with complete trust because we don’t know what it is. This kind of blind trust, willingness to blindly wait and make sacrifices is the essence of true love. Mary could trust God and take the burden of blindly waiting and sacrificing herself because of her love for God; blind trust and patience are signs of love.
Advent is about waiting and hoping. In his Advent reflection, my favorite spiritual writer Henri Nouwen says that Mary and Elizabeth enabled each other to wait. For him, this meeting is the model of the Christian community; “It is a community of support, celebration, and affirmation in which we can lift up what has already begun in us.” What we are waiting for has already begun; we have already seen it. The Christ we are waiting for during this Season of Advent is already here; we just need to make Christ alive in us personally and communally. Another spoiler alert; next Sunday we will continue this topic when we talk about word becoming flesh. In this world where people are constantly afraid of the waiting period when seemingly nothing happens, This Christ in us will help us to patiently hope for God’s will to be done in us, whatever God’s will may be. Hope is different from wishes in that it is about giving up control so that God will show us something; that God will do something in us and through us. This hope and the waiting is open-ended. When we wish for something, it ends when that wish comes true (or it never comes true and we give up); but hoping is not about our personal wish, so it can remain open-ended during which time we actively pay attention to God’s revelations instead of passively waiting while doing nothing. While waiting for God, we are not doing nothing; we are actively and consciously being present and listening for God’s revelations.
We are still in the Season of Advent, hoping and waiting. This week, let us think of Mary. She accepted God’s plan out of trust and love although she was scared. Then she got together with Elizabeth in community and mutual support, which caused her to respond by praising God in her famous Magnificat (“My soul magnifies the Lord, etc.”). She is carrying love in her belly, out of love for God and God’s plan of love for humanity. It’s all about love, the agape love, the most supreme form of love; motherly love, love for God, and God’s love for humanity. Out of this supreme love was born the Christ child, the one who taught us how to love and treat each other with the love of God. God is made of love. Jesus was the embodiment of that love (again, this is next Sunday’s topic).
We are waiting for love of God to come to us during this season. We already know about it; we have seen it. During the remainder of Advent, let us pray for this Godly love to be manifested in our hearts and lives so that we can love each other with this love, and not with human love. Let us pray. “Come O divine love! Come in the form of a lowly child born in a stable with shepherds and animals around him. Come teach us God’s love, and use us to liberate the lowly and the suffering of our world. Let us do your work of peace and justice out of love; your love and our love for you. Amen.”
Rev. Sunny Kim