Meditation for the Second Vespers in Advent
‘I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice, and my pleas for mercy.’
We say these words so often, we Lutherans, ‘fear, love, and trust.’ These are
the things we owe God. These are how we rightly relate to our Lord. These three
together are Christian piety. And the
greatest of these is love.
The Pharisees gather to test our Lord. They ask Him which is the greatest of the commandments. Our
Lord responds, ‘You shall love the Lord
your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
How could He have answered otherwise? He is God. And God is love.
People often ponder the ineffable Trinity. That there are
three persons, who are yet still one. They think this a great mystery, and
insofar as we humans cannot understand it, it remains a great mystery. But it
is not so hard to understand, for God is
Love is nothing else than to see another as not another. To look upon someone
else, and be able to say ‘There I am.’ To look upon another’s suffering, and
suffer in them. To see another’s joy, and rejoice in them. To live in them as
they live. To die with them when they die.
When our friend lives, as long as he lives, we are bound by the tightest bonds
of affection. This we call happiness. When he dies, we are torn from ourselves,
for part of ourselves died in him. This we call sorrow.
But whether sorrow or affection, these are both the fruit of love, for love
breaks down all division between ‘You’ and ‘I’. There is no you and I in love.
The two become one being in two persons, living a life together, as friends, as
spouses, as children.
God is love, and so
the Trinity is not so hard to understand, for it is but one being in three
persons, united by love, from all eternity, unto all timelessness.
From the foundation of the world, our
God has desired to live in such love, such unity, with we, His image, which He
created in infinite joy at the beginning of time, that we might be what Christ
called His disciples when He spoke to them on the day before His Passion,
saying ‘Ye are my friends.’
Yet we wandered from Him. He loved us, yet we did not love Him. So far away
we lost ourselves. But God so loved the
world, that He would not have a part of Himself be lost. He would not let
His very image be torn away.
So He travelled into this wilderness, this hateful world, and even assumed our
form, becoming man, for God is love, and
love unites; and in the incarnation, God and man are forever made one.
He is one with us in all our misery. He is one with us in all our pain. He is one with us in all our anguish. For this reason, the prophet calls Him a man of sorrows. How could He not be? Our Lord is united with us in Christ, united with a humanity of sorrows, endless and infinite, yet this, our suffering, He counts even as joy, for to our God, taking on the iniquity of all mankind is a small cost to pay to regain His love, His friends, His people, the shattered image of Himself. Because He looked upon our fallen race, and said ‘There I am.’
This is the meaning of the crèche, the little nativity sets we put up in our houses or on our lawns: that God would not allow us to be far off from Him. That in His love for us, He must draw near.
He saw us, and came down to be with us, to suffer with us, to die for us; that we might see him, suffer for Him, die in Him, and so forever be with him. For God abides in us, and we in Him.
So we love God, for he
first loved us.
Therefore, we are commanded to love the Lord with all our heart and soul and mind. Indeed, this is ‘the greatest and first commandment.’
For to love Him is nothing other than to be loved by Him, to
receive His unending mercy, and so be made one with Him by His incarnation, by
His uniting Himself to our life of sorrow.
And being united to Christ in love, we are united to all
that is Christ’s, His compassion, His pain, His suffering, His death, His
Resurrection, His eternal life, His heavenly throne.
Indeed, He was born a child without help
that He might endure all the heart break of our lives, so that we would be with
Him forever, His friends, His people. That our dying would be the beginning of
our everlasting life with Him, the Joy of Man’s Desiring, the Lover of our
Therefore it is written:
‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the
death of his saints.’
‘What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?’
‘I love the Lord, for you have delivered my eyes from tears.’
Preached by Pastor Fields
Psalm 116; 1 John 4:7-21; Matthew 22:34-40.