Love's Gifts

When we think of the image of God being born in a stable and then lying in a feeding trough, we cannot help but think of love.

The baby Jesus helps us to see love become more than just a mystical fantasy, a romantic feeling or sentiment, the baby Jesus makes love become real, takes us out of our comfort zones and challenges us to make crazy decisions.

When I think of God, and his loving choice to surrender his power, to become a weak fragile baby, I cannot help but think of love; not only that, this love is a crazy revolutionary Love. He chose to become a baby that was not destined to become a military leader, a powerful man or a wealthy bureaucrat. NO, this Love chose to become a baby who was viewed as an illegitimate child, born homeless and who was quickly deemed a criminal by a powerful king. This Love lived his life as an outcast, constantly in conflict with the law and had "nowhere to lay his head." And then to top it off, he died a criminal's death!

This little baby Jesus, grew up to live his earthly life promoting the Kingdom of God; a kingdom that elevated others who were marginalized, outcasts, suffering and rejected.

This realization struck home even more this week. A couple nights ago I attended Chicago's annual "homeless persons memorial" at Old St. Pats Church; during this service they read Luke 2:1-7, lit candles and sung old hymns. As the names of many homeless people who had died in 2012 were remembered and solemnly read, (many of whom I personally know), they focused on the love of Jesus for each and every one of these women and men. I see it every day, though these women and men are often ignored and forgotten in this life, though they are homeless like Jesus, criminalized like Jesus and rejected like Jesus, nearly every single one of them knows they are precious in the sight of God. Though they are often despised, just like Jesus, the love of Jesus is very real to them, because they experience it through the love and compassion of His followers.

This is the season where homeless people are often showered with many gifts and much love. Christians come from all over the globe, come offering many things; it could be a meal, socks, a scarf, ears to listen, a prayer or new boots. The love of Jesus becomes real, because strangers take a little time and effort to become their friends, making them feel loved, wanted and making their life a little easier to handle.

I consider myself privileged, because I can observe all Cornerstone's festivities. Churches and groups come and prepare scrumptious meals, musicians play wonderful music, vans pick people up to drive them to another party, countless people drop off gift after gift and hundreds of volunteers sacrifice their time and effort in an attempt to make life more enjoyable for the "least of these".

What makes this time even more delightful to the eye, is watching people who expect nothing get something. There is so much joy in watching people who think they don't deserve anything get a bunch of somethings. And that is what the birth of Jesus is about, that is what God's Kingdom is about and that is what the Gospel is about!

After attending a few of the Christmas parties and meals for the single men and women, I was honored to be able to help in handing out the gifts to our homeless families.

Every year, this is truly a huge enterprise, as it takes months of preparation, many volunteers, much driving and picking up, wrapping hundreds of gifts for well over a hundred children and trying to ensure every family gets an equal amount. It's like a snowball that gets bigger and faster as it rolls down the hill, and then all of a sudden it's over, peacefully lying at the bottom of the valley. I know this, because Beth has been heavily involved in making this happen for about 20 years.

This year, Beth, Muriwai and myself handed out gifts to the families living on the 4th floor. The groups bought up big labeled black bags full of presents from across the street, and we gave them to the right families. Mothers and fathers who didn't expect anything, received much. They wept with joy and thanked us profusely. These "weepers" are parents who are embarrassed that they and their family are living in a homeless shelter over Christmas, wondering how they'd give their children anything, and now they all have a blessed abundance. This is all thanks to the generous work, donations and efforts of hundreds and hundreds of people.

....and that's what the birth of Jesus is all about. That's what the Kingdom of God is all about. That's what the Gospel is all about. That's what Love is all about!

This advent season and the birth of Jesus encourages us all to step out of our comfort zones, and to love, truly love, those people who can make our lives difficult. This advent season encourages us to love those who are ignored and forgotten, to love the prisoner and the sick. Jesus could of chosen to chill out with his day's elite, but he didn't. He could have chosen to establish a Kingdom of military power and prestige, but he didn't! He could have chosen to listen to his followers and lived for His own glory, but he didn't! He chose to stop and heal outcasts, the desperate, those suffering and sinners. He chose to take time and dine with rejected people like Zacchaeus, undesirable women like Mary Magdalene and demon possessed men like Legion.

Love chose the way of weakness and humility, not power and prestige! Love chose to make very risky, radical and revolutionary life-threatening decisions; and we know these decisions led him to the ultimate loving sacrifice on that brutal cross!

The radical birth of Jesus, screams of God's love and it challenges us to make a choice. God chose to make his life difficult, when it could have been easy. He chose the narrow path, to step out of His comfort zone and to do some crazy things, so we could be set free, so we could find healing, and so we, could live eternally with Him.

He simply asks us to do likewise....

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