Silence: Take a moment to get still and ask God to center your heart on him.
Scripture: 25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28).
Devotional: A few years ago I stumbled across a website called “Advent Conspiracy”. It’s a movement started by 5 pastors that wanted to reimagine how they practiced Christmas in their communities. Advent Conspiracy was born out of their conversation and dreaming.
Advent Conspiracy is built around 4 tenets and we’ve covered three of the four:
- Worship Fully
- Spend Less
- Give More
The fourth and final tenet is “Love All”.
“It all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. This is the conspiracy three churches began a few years ago, and has since grown to an international movement where thousands of churches have raised millions of dollars to love others in life-changing ways. It’s not that there’s something wrong with the shopping mall—it’s that the better story is about loving all.” (Advent Conspiracy).
I do believe there is a better story to tell at Christmas than simply hot chocolate, songs and presents. The grand narrative of Christmas is vastly more compelling than anything consumerism can offer us. Consumerism doesn’t create happiness, memories or meaning. Meaning is found in knowing and being known by God. Happiness and memories are shaped by loving God, living for his purposes and loving others.
Every Christmas day since I was 13 years old my family has helped serve meals to families at the Monument Café in Georgetown. We get up around 5am on Christmas morning and head over to the restaurant. All the food gets cooked and then prepped to serve.
In the early days we served food at the restaurant to anyone who came in for free. Now, we cook and prep all the food that gets delivered by Meals on Wheels. It’s an exhausting day, but absolutely worth it.
It’s by far my favorite family tradition. I love it because my family was teaching me that on Christmas we do as Jesus did – give of ourselves, serve others and love our neighbors.
Luke 10:25-37 is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture because Jesus directly speaks to understanding the concept of loving our neighbor. He explains it’s meaning by sharing the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
A man gets beaten and robbed on his way to Jericho. Religious people – a priest and Levite – pass by this man and don’t help him. Then, a Samaritan, a person despised by the Jews, had compassion on the man, cared for him and got him to safety.
Jesus then asks the lawyer, “Who was the neighbor?” The lawyer responds, “The man who showed mercy.” Jesus replies, “You go and do the same.”
Jesus not only answers the question – “who is my neighbor?”, but he also reframes the question to “how do I love my neighbor?”
Our neighbors are anyone who is in need and we demonstrate love for neighbor by showing mercy. In doing so, we reflect the love of Christ to all we encounter.
Think about it for a second. What other narrative follows the story of an individual left on the road side to die, but was rescued by the intervention of another? What other story line reflects a helpless individual getting their wounds healed by the resource and expense of someone else? It’s our story.
Sin left us on the road side to die in our trespasses, yet God being rich in mercy loved us through sending his son to rescue us. He gave his ultimate resource, his perfect life, so that we might be healed. By his wounds our wounds have been healed. This story is my story. This story is your story. This story is our story.
Jesus demonstrated his love for all by laying down his life to show us mercy. We must go and do likewise.
Question: How can you “love all” this Christmas season, especially the “least of these”?
Action: Ask yourself the question, who in my life is my neighbor and how can I love them well? Then act upon it! If you are in the Austin area, here is a link to volunteer opportunities you can check out during the holiday season.
Prayer: Father, you were rich in mercy when you sent Jesus to rescue us. You showed us that “greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Show me daily who my neighbor is and how I can love them well. Amen.