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JOHN DEMPSTER: Advent reminds us of the full extent of God’s love

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Volunteers putting together boxes of goods for the needy is a sign of practical love at Christmas. Picture: Gary Anthony.
Volunteers putting together boxes of goods for the needy is a sign of practical love at Christmas. Picture: Gary Anthony.

It’s Advent. These weeks before Christmas, Christians are preparing to celebrate the coming of Jesus to reveal the full extent of God’s love. As the carol says: “Love came down at Christmas", writes columnist John Dempster.

I believe that wherever we see love – the love which always seeks the best for others – we are glimpsing Jesus.

Love is love, and whatever the beliefs of the person doing the loving, God is present in it.

But in saying that Jesus takes part in our human acts of kindness, in saying that in some way “love = Jesus” aren’t we explaining away the mystery in human terms?

Well no, because Jesus shows us the true nature of the love working in us and through us.

Read more: John Dempster: We do not truly own anything – everything is a gift from God

The personal, creative immensity who moment by moment sustains the universe is revealed by Jesus as pure Love.

The paltry love which we show, and would like to show more of is a faint expression of this Great Love which embraces all things. Our every fragile act of love gives just a fragrant hint of this Perfect Love.

And as Christians it is to that Love that we bring our fears, and in that Love that we take refuge.

This sounds so sweet, so simple. But can it be true? In our imperfection as human beings we can both reflect and channel the love of God and at the same time do horrendous acts of unlove.

How does the Great Love respond? I can see the Father in Jesus’ famous story letting his son leave home with his inheritance, and then patiently waiting and watching – weeks, months, years – until the son faces the consequences of his choices, and realises he can only flourish in the house of the Father’s love, and comes slowly homeward, humbly.

And how many of us have taken the same, long, sheepish journey home?

But how can pain, suffering, death even exist if reality is Love-driven? Is God a cosmic sadist masquerading as a great lover?

We remember that Jesus, the Love who came down at Christmas was not exempt from suffering, and yet entrusted himself to God. In some mysterious way we believe that in dying Jesus absorbed our darkness, and suffered with us and for us, so that suffering and death may not be the final word about us, but rather life and resurrection.

The pure Love of God found a way to save us.

Love came down at Christmas. A baby in a manger. A tiny seed of hope in a troubled world. But what a seed!

And so the Christmas good news we Christians share is this: “Say ‘Yes!’ to Jesus. Say ‘Yes’ to a love which will never let you go.”

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