My daughter was playing with the felt heart on our advent calendar. She held it up, closing one eye to inspect it in the ray of sun filtering through the window.
“Look mommy, this heart means love.”
“Yes, because love came down at Christmas time.”
“Where is love Mom?”
“But how can I see love?”
“Hmmm…I see love in the Christmas tree we put up together. I see love in the pictures of us on the wall. I see love when I look at you. Can you find love in this room?”
“I see love in the water in that cup on the table.”
“Why is that?”
“Because we need to drink water to live…right mom?”
The conversation I had with my three year old reminds me that I’ve been going through the motions of Christmas, but I’ve been forgetting the most important part, the love.
As a busy mom, I can go half the morning without downing anything but black coffee. My body eventually reminds me it is desperate for water, with a foggy brain and pulsing pain at my temples.
I’m terrible at drinking quickly. If I was ever challenged to a chugging contest, I would forfeit, because, my body doesn’t even know how. Chugging hurts my throat and makes me feel suffocated. So, when it comes to water, I’m forced to drink it slowly, sip by sip.
Love slows me down too. When I live in love, I sip up each moment with relish. I don’t realize how desperately I needed it until I start to take it in.
Its easy to go through the motions of Christmas without the feelings. Sometimes we hope that the feelings will catch up somehow. We can feel dried up and numb of emotion, or flooded with unexpected melancholy and sadness. Its not always easy to teach our heart to feel the right emotions- it can misbehave like an unruly child. But love is patient with us. It sits there and waits like a glass of water on a table, ready to be picked up and sipped in.
Jesus didn’t wait for ready hearts to come onto the scene. He certainly didn’t wait for a room twinkling with candles and strung up with garland and lights. The stars and stable were enough. Announcements didn’t go out, Bethlehem was busy and bustling with a census. No, shepherds and livestock would do as an adoring audience. He surrendered himself to the care of a scared new mom who cried out in pain and felt the sharp sting of love mixed with uncertainty and fear, pure awe and wonder. Jesus came down as love that first learned to breathe, and suckle, to eat, and toddle, walk and talk and live as our flesh.
So easily, I simplify love as the warm fuzzy feelings. I want to wrap Christmas in tinsel and tradition, and happy thoughts, but the truth is Christmas is about a Savior who patiently endured pain and struggle to be among us. True love is enduring the good and bad, and the tedious to be with someone. Love is waiting and walking alongside someone.
I can find love in decorating a Christmas tree, or the happy snapshots of memories as a family. But my daughter reminds me that its in everything. Its in shedding tears as you say goodbye to your brother, or dad, and hold out the hope that one day you will share a table with them again. Its in watching those you love grow older, its in forgiving, and washing dishes, in sitting with the pain of loss and still getting up to make breakfast for the family. Love is quenching our thirst, our need for more than what this world can offer. Love waits for us patiently. It puts on our flesh and learns to walk with us. Yes, love comes down in an infant, is lifted up on a cross and buried in the earth. Love rises again, to draw us home. Love sustains, it fills us up, it overflows and it quenches our thirsty souls. Love makes everything complete.