Scripture: Romans 12, 9-18. Nigel Bunce
We complete our Advent journey to Bethlehem’s stable by reflecting on the meaning of the fourth Advent theme, namely love. Image from Toronto Homeless and Housing Supports.
Love is the theme for the final week of Advent, which begins this coming Sunday. St. Paul wrote extensively on love. Most famously in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, which we often hear at weddings. So I chose this passage from the letter to the Romans, just to read something different. This piece also has many of the ideas that Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. For example, bless those who persecute you. Don’t repay evil with evil.
Four kinds of love
However, we have to remember that the English word ‘love’ has to cover a lot more territory than in Greek, Paul’s language. Biblical Greek has four different words for love. They are eros (romance), philia (friendship) and storgé (familial love, as between parents and children). Finally, there is agapé (translated as compassion, kindness, or respect). This is almost always what love means in the Scriptures. This is the baptismal promise we make when we assent to the question, “Will you respect the dignity of every human being?” Agapé is the hardest of the four types of love, because it is the most free of self-interest.
Agapé love in Jesus’ earthly ministry
In his earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated agapé love on many occasions that the Gospels record. He spoke to the woman by the well, instead of following the custom of ignoring her [John 4]. He healed people, including ‘untouchable’ folks such as lepers. Also, he showed agapé love to the woman who was caught in adultery. In fact much of his teaching can be summed up in the ancient Jewish prescription, to “love your neighbour as yourself”.
Waiting for the holy birth
So, as we come towards the end of our Advent journey for the year 2021, let us wait in a spirit of agapé love towards all those we meet on the way. Remembering that many of them have the same destination as ourselves. Namely, a stable in Bethlehem. Millions of people around the world will crowd with us in that ill-lit, cramped and chilly barn, waiting for the Light of Christ to return once again. Yet there will be enough room for us all. There’s no need to push. Everyone will be able to see the baby. At least, everyone who comes with eyes of wonder. Amen.