Through word made flesh, the ways of God’s love for creation become detailed and demonstrated. We see that love is far more than a feeling. Love is about going to difficult places, about standing with those who are hurt, about getting in the face of injustice and, ultimately, shining a light that overcomes the powers of this world. We need this kind of love today.
When my daughter was in the second grade, we lived in Ridgeland, Miss., in a nice, middle-class subdivision. All around town, beautification efforts were underway. Workers were installing new street signs and making cosmetic fixes to make the community appeal to new residents and businesses. I had no idea that just over the railroad tracks were homes where poverty and desperation were a way of life. Getting involved with one of my daughter Marissa’s classmates offered the revelation.
I started taking Marissa and Chris to the library after school to do their homework together. When I took Chris home that first day, nobody was there to greet him. The front door wasn’t even hanging on its hinges. Weeks later, I noticed that his jacket had burn marks on it and asked about them. He quickly explained that he had gotten dressed that morning in candlelight because they had no electricity. When I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, “I figure I’ll be shot.”
At this time of year, movies like “A Christmas Carol“ appeal to our sentimental selves. We witness how old Ebenezer’s transformation made it possible for Bob Cratchit not to labor in vain and for Tiny Tim to live! What a beautiful metaphor this story is for Christ’s Incarnation into a world of sin. The transformation that comes from God can make our labors fruitful, can bring change so that children are “not be doomed to misfortune” (Isaiah 65:23). Love incarnate creates newness in the heart and mind so that God’s glory may be manifest on earth … as it is in heaven.
In the years since our days in Mississippi, I have traveled globally and I live now in Nashville. I have seen other children like Chris – living on the margins of life as it could be. I also see faithful Christians manifesting God’s love through ministries like the after-school program at 61st Avenue United Methodist Church, the ZOE Ministry with orphans in Africa or a program in Manila for street children. Because God went to the brink with humanity, so can we. Not only can we witness the sorrow of the world, we can act to break its hold.
Christmas is about the bright and shiny. However, it’s not the bright and shiny that comes through things purchased, but the glow and sparkle of relationships where love is manifest and God becomes incarnate all over again. May our lives become a sonnet – expressing the many ways we love God so that the whole world may share in the joy.
As the poet wrote, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
The Rev. Neelley Hicks is a deacon and a member of the Tennessee Conference. She serves as the assistant director of the communications ministry group at United Methodist Communications.