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Issue 9-16

The Circle of Love


“Don’t be cross, uncle!” said the nephew.

“What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ‘em through a round of dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.

This reading from the classic A Christmas Carol by Dickens began the sermon last Sunday preached at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago by Rev. John Buchanan. My daughter and son-in-law and their two children had spent the weekend in the city giving out gift bags to homeless people and dropping twenty dollars of quarters and twenty gold dollars in the Salvation Army kettles. They invited me to be part of their project.

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, the choirs were in full form, singing descants from the back to familiar Christmas carols and processing forward through the chancel while wearing Advent-blue robes. Large greenery wreaths adorned every pillar and ropes of evergreens swagged the balconies. It looked like the holidays, sounded like the holidays and the warm welcome of ushers and church members made holiday hospitality feel real.

The point of Rev. Buchanan’s Scrooge-like introduction was to lead our minds to more contemporary Christmas grouches—the American atheists who are mounting their annual anti-Christmas campaign. In early November, the American Humanist Association launched what it described as the “largest, most extensive advertising campaign by a godless organization” in the history of mankind, complete with TV commercials on NBC and cable and print ads in USA Today, The Village Voice, and a handful of other publications.

The American Atheists followed up with a billboard near the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey showing the three wise men. The billboard proclaims:

 

“You KNOW it’s a myth.
This season, celebrate reason.”

 

Then, this Presbyterian pastor did a brilliant job of proclaiming that the reason for the season is not reason; it is love love. Christianity essentially overcomes the darkness in the world when it remembers this undying truth:

“So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”

1 John 4:16 NRSV.

This is the message of Christianity that we too often forget. It is not the protestors standing on the fringe of gravesites protesting gay lifestyles. It is not the self-righteous judgments of television evangelists. It is not the angry denunciations of self-appointed “prophets”. It is unaccountable acts of loving sacrifice that make a difference in the world. It is shared homes and meals. It is kind words spoken in harsh environments. It is forgiveness offered to persecutors. It is two people who work, for the sake of the God of love, to make a marriage succeed. It is weariness because of well doing. It is giving of one’s means. It is an overwhelming body of evidence that there are people in society who actually have known and believe the love God has for them, who abide in that love and consequently abide in God and He in them.

Love is a circle that stretches from an ancient past into a modern present. It is our evidence of things unseen. It is the love of a husband for a wife, and of a mother for a child. It is the love of a friend for a friend, and of a mother-in-law for her daughter-in-law. It is the kindness of a stranger for a stranger, of a teacher for a student, of the warm enfolding embrace of a neighbor for a neighbor. It is the love of a teenager for a parent. Love is what we know in our best moments, holding an infant in our arms or watching in the dark hours as a relative recovers from a fever, or seeing our family gathered in the candlelight of a Christmas meal. This is what makes the world understand that there is a reason for the season and it isn’t reason. It is love.

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you will abide in love.

Karen Mains

 

 

Sewing Lesson

The Circle of Love reaches from the past into the present:
Jennifer teaches Elizabeth, age 16, how to sew.

 

 


 


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Karen Mains

Karen Mains

“Love is a circle that stretches from an ancient past into a modern present. It is our evidence of things unseen. It is the love of a husband for a wife, and of a mother for a child. It is the love of a friend for a friend, and of a mother-in-law for her daughter-in-law. It is the kindness of a stranger for a stranger, of a teacher for a student, of the warm enfolding embrace of a neighbor for a neighbor. It is the love of a teenager for a parent. Love is what we know in our best moments, holding an infant in our arms or watching in the dark hours as a relative recovers from a fever, or seeing our family gathered in the candlelight of a Christmas meal. This is what makes the world understand that there is a reason for the season and it isn’t reason. It is love. ”

 

 

 


I know that I have life
only insofar as I have love.


I have no love
except it come from Thee.


Help me, please, to carry
this candle against the wind.


WENDELL BERRY

 



Copyright 2006-2010 Mainstay Ministries. All rights reserved.

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