We probably all remember the hymn:
Love came down at Christmas
Love, a lovely love divine
Love was born at Christmas
Stars and angels gave the sign.
It isn’t as though love had not existed before Jesus was born, of course, so why do we celebrate Love particularly at Christmas? Why is Christmas a time when we particularly show our love for our family, when we give presents, when we try to help the hungry, the homeless, the lonely?
When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). His whole life was a demonstration of the power of love, especially love at great cost – not the kind of love as in expressions like ‘I love chocolate’ or ‘I love fast cars’! And his death bore out his statement: ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (John 15:13). Shortly before his death he said to his disciples: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’. (John 13:34). In the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ he challenged common assumptions, none more than when he said: ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven’. (Matthew 35:43-45)
So Jesus saw love not as something easy and without cost. When we say ‘Love came down at Christmas’ we bear in mind that God became incarnate and lived in human flesh with all its frailties, all its needs, all its joys and all its pain, even dying a excruciating death on the cross. And why? To save us from our life of sin, of selfishness; to show us how to live out a life characterised by self-giving, even sacrificial, love. And this is what we celebrate at Christmas.
So let us pray:
Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without love are nothing worth,
Send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearths that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for the sake of your only Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.