the weakness in [christmas] love

25 12 2011

Have I been good enough?

Have I been good enough this year? To receive some presents? I wonder what scale I will use to decide. Maybe comparing myself to others. That usually works well in my favour. I’m no Mother Teresa but I’m no Kim Jong Il either… therefore I am good.

Have I been good enough?

Sometimes to make sure we have been good enough to receive good things we draw up charts and lists. Most of these are good things, or at least they start off that way. We might think of the 10 commandments or the law of the land. I haven’t broken any laws, so I’ve been good. Maybe a little speeding, the odd tax dodge and a Blackberry from the back of a lorry but apart from that I’ve been good.

Have I been good enough?

If that is the question we believe that God is asking us – and for many it will be – then can I reassure you that he is not.  God is not interested in whether or not you have been good. What?!? But surely being a Christian is the same as being a good person, isn’t it? Aren’t Christians goody-goodies? Isn’t that what the 10 commandments are all about?

The Christmas story shows us year after tinsel-covered year that God is not interested in whether we are good. Which is lucky because although we might feel we have ‘kept the 10 commandments’, which a lot of people tell me they do because they haven’t killed anyone or been jealous of their neighbours ass we all fall down at the very first one.

When God came into the world taking the form of a human being, demeaning himself and coming down to our fragile, human level, God was saying the rules and the laws are not working and though I love it when you live well and do good the most important thing is not that you are good but that you are love.

Have I been good enough?

To receive from God? You think you need to be good to receive?

If you are carrying guilt that it has been a bad year and you think you haven’t been good enough to receive from God, then think again. The story of Jesus birth and of his life show us that God consistently surprises and gives to people who least expect it and who represent what the world sees as ‘bad people’ – shepherds, tax collectors, prostitutes, unclean people.

It is not too late to receive from God, to turn ourselves to face him and to receive from him.

If you are carrying pride that it has been a good year and that you have done pretty well, so should expect to receive from God some sort of reward, then think again. The story of Jesus life and birth show us that God consistently surprises people who call themselves ‘good’ and humbles them – King Herod, the Pharisees, the religious scholars, the rich.

It is not too late though to humble ourselves and receive from God, to turn ourselves to face him and to receive from him.

John’s gospel talks of Jesus as being the light that gives life,  a light that changes us because it shines into our darkest places and transforms them from darkness to light, whether our greatest darkness is pride or addiction or self-loathing or apathy or fear or abuse or doubt… Christmas is a time to remember God broke into our world in a surprising and reckless way  not that we might be good but that we might love and be loved.

The sting in the tail is that it is much easier to be good than it is to give and receive love, especially God’s love. Which is why so many of us default to trying to be good, instead of allowing ourselves to be loved. Allowing ourselves to be loved is perhaps the hardest thing of all.  That love transforms us and turns us into the best you and me we can be, but it is not a quick fix and it is not easy. But it is worth it.

The weakness in love is it’s greatest strength.

May we be people of the light, people who love and know love, who give and receive love that comes from God the Father revealed in Jesus Christ and living on through the Holy Spirit, people who turn and face God and receive openly from him; may we be people who truly and openly pray O come to us, Abide with us, our Lord Immanuel.

**this is an edited version of my Christmas Eve Midnight Communion talk**

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