by Sam Kim
Although the ‘butterflies’ are nice, when it comes to working within a biblical framework of love, Paul list 16 traits of love in his first letter to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 13:4-7) and the ‘butterflies’ aren’t mentioned even once!
There is a reason why you don’t get a medal when you come in fourth: the effort was noteworthy, but it wasn’t admirable. So, what about coming in seventeenth? Well, literally nothing happens. You’re not mentioned and are forgotten, and you probably prefer it that way.
Under biblical scrutiny, if ‘butterflies’ were to compete, the only competition it would qualify for would be one of the 17 seasons on the Biggest Loser!
Joking aside, when stripped of all its usual sentimentality, love is a commitment, nothing more and nothing less.
Sometimes, a Christmas retrospective is necessary before we break into the new year, just in case we missed the point this year. The point is that the incarnation is not just a gift for our consumption as an end in itself: it is to bring illumination and be a light to our path.
The heart of Christmas is the culmination of God’s commitment to us and our commitment to God. If we see the nativity scene free of our usual holiday nostalgia, the dust will clear and we will see a people of God answering the call of God out of their fierce love for God.
I believe we can glean two profound lessons about the nature of love from this timeless story.
First, love is a fierce commitment to the other even at great cost or loss. #Fierce
They say hindsight is 20/20, but Mary didn’t have that luxury as we do today when we contemplate her story. We know that Jesus was born supernaturally of water and Spirt, but culturally most believed that Jesus was born out of wedlock and a sham marriage. Before Mary was given the name, “Blessed is Mary, Mother of God,” her name was “scandalous.”
In her cultural context, all Mary had was her good name, and answering the call of God meant that she would not only lose her name, but also be discarded by society for the remainder of her life. Mary answered the call of God even at great personal cost, because of her fierce love for God.
Second, love requires a vulnerability that we would rather avoid, but must courageously embrace. #Courage
Can you imagine what was going on in Joseph’s head when Mary broke the news?
God impregnated you? Sure he did….Joseph probably settled on the theory that Mary had a moment of weakness with some guy he never liked anyway, someone who had now left him with “damaged goods.” So he decided to divorce Mary secretly, because he didn’t want to make her life any dimmer than it was going to be.
Then, the most unexpected thing happened. An angel visited him in a divine dream confirming Mary’s holy testimony. Most would mistakenly assume that this should have helped resolve the deep conflict in Joseph’s heart, when it actually drove it in deeper. Although Joseph was now filled in on God’s redemptive work, it didn’t absolve him of the ramifications.
The call of God is an invitation to a divine conspiracy. Only heaven would know Joseph was an honorable man answering the call of God out of his fierce love for God and Mary.
Everyone else saw something entirely different and so a conspiracy it became. Others saw a man marrying a scandalous girl in a sham marriage to cover up the illegitimate child she was carrying because of his impotence and disgrace.
Joseph was undeniably a man after God’s own heart, just like his great grandfather David. In the eyes of the world, the apple could not have fallen further from the tree, but to heaven the apple was so much closer than anyone would ever know.
Joseph’s audacious love for God and his new bride required a courage most men only dream of. It required a vulnerability that he would rather have avoided, but that he instead chose to courageously embrace for the sake of the call.
As we approach the new year, perhaps a good Christmas retrospective is not to reflect on the Christmas event itself, but rather the invitation it brings. The invitation to a divine conspiracy.
The heart of the Christmas story centers on a godly couple who ferociously pursued God’s call, which resulted in saving the world from its darkest hour and a breakthrough of a marvelous light.
Are you pursuing the call of God in your life, or has your Christianity become too comfortable?
The last time I checked, Christmas had nothing to do with comfort and everything to do with a people of God pursuing the call of God for their fierce love for God.
Sam Kim (@Sam180church) is founder of 180 Church NYC, a community joining God to restore the beauty in all things. He teaches and writes about culture, preaching, and evangelism in various contexts. He is husband to Lydia, dad to Nathan and Josh, and best-friends with his dog, Brownie. Learn more at samdkim.com