Today is the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Sunday when the church lights the candle on the Advent wreath that stands for love. I find each of the four themes we focus upon in Advent to be meaningful, but I confess a strong sentimental preference for this fourth Sunday. I’ll tell you why.
Two years ago today I was in the throes of a love I had never experienced before. (Actually, I still am…but this is about two years ago.) And so on December 22, 2011, I asked the woman who is now my wife to come with me to the Prudential Center in Boston. Together we rode the elevator to the 50th floor observation deck of the Prudential Tower, and we looked out over the city of Boston and beyond.
This was the second time we had been there together. The first hadn’t gone so well. I’m not afraid of much, but on that first visit I had discovered that I was not particularly fond of 50th floor observation decks. We had made it around the glassed-in floor that day, but only because I refused to look down and couldn’t wait to get back on solid ground.
But this night was different. The sun was slowly setting on Boston, and as we walked around the observation deck I pointed out all the places that meant something special to us: the seminary where we met, the Boston Common, the first place we had said “I love you”, and more. And then, standing there fifty stories up, I told her, “You make me feel like I can do all the things that terrify me.”
I didn’t ask Heidi to marry me there. Instead we walked two blocks down the street to Old South Church, her church, where we were attending a weeknight worship service in the chapel. But before we went in, we took a detour to the sanctuary, the place where she and I had spent time sitting and talking early on in our relationship. We we stood up to go, Heidi turned around for a second. When she turned back I was down on one knee. And there, in that sanctuary where we had both learned so much about God’s love and our own love, she said “yes”.
That night Heidi and I were asked to light the Advent wreath during worship. We lit the fourth candle; the love candle.
In Advent we talk about love and sometimes we make it sound like some big theological concept. But, really, love comes pretty naturally. When we love one another, we experience just a small taste of what God’s love for us is like. And in Advent we await a love that is so deep, and so unrelenting, that the same love came down and became one of us, that we would know that love even better.
In the first letter of John there is a line that says, “perfect love casts out fear”. I think that’s true. I also think that love, as I told Heidi, makes us believe we can do all the things that terrify us. And I think that’s what happens when we truly understand at our core that God loves us. The fear is gone, and nothing stops us from doing what terrifies us. And, even better, nothing stops us from spreading that same love to others.
At least that’s what the fourth Sunday of Advent teaches me.
Question: How would you love, in every sense of the word, if you were unafraid?
Prayer: God, thank you for the gift of love you have given us through Christ. God, may your love for us overpower our fear until all that remains is you. And then, filled with your love, may we share that love with others. Amen.