Advent Devotional – December 20

Advent Week 4: Love

December 20

John 13.34-35, NRSV

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

At this point in the season, how many items are left on your to-do list for the holidays? Mine is still missing quite a few check marks, to be certain. I’m a list-maker, and proud of it. I’m pretty sure it’s a genetically inherited trait, as I come from a healthy line of list-lovers. Packing lists for trips, shopping lists, work checklists – I love them all, and most likely will have them color coordinated. I like to think that my lists are ways that I can keep some of the chaos of life at bay. If I can organize all my activities into neat color-coded lists, then maybe the day-to-day experience of getting it all done won’t be quite so overwhelming or stressful. That’s what I like to tell myself, at least.

The reality is that there’s still just too much on my lists. They’ve become cluttered with line after line of things that I need to do, items I need to buy, and expectations I need to meet. My lists around the holidays are even longer and more pressing. Gift giving is one of my love languages; so every gift to be purchased for others is more than just a task to be accomplished. To me, those gifts are expressions of the depth of my love for my family and friends and should reflect each person’s unique personality and desires. I like for my gifts to have meaning, and that can add emotional pressure to all that I need to get done during the season. Not to mention that, as a minister, Advent is one of the busiest times of the year. My November and December lists are impressively full.

But Jesus reminds me that they don’t need to be. To borrow from the Beatles, Jesus tells me that all you and I really need is love. More important than finding matching wrapping paper is to love one another. More important than making sure everyone brings just the right dish to Christmas Eve dinner is to love one another. More important than having a perfectly trimmed tree is to love one another. More important than checking every item off the list is to love one another. Jesus sets us free from the whirlwind and clutter that this season can bring by reminding us what is truly needed. All we need to do is love one another. If we will love one another, then everyone will see how the love of God can transform our hearts, our lists, our lives, and our world. And isn’t that what our world is waiting for?

Prayer: Loving God, you have told us what you require of us. In the life of Christ, you have shown us how you would have us to live. Help us to set aside the lists, tasks, and expectations that keep us distracted, busy, and tired. Remind us that all we really need to do, with each day we are given, is love you and love one another. Amen.

Action: Make a list today. If you already have one (or several if you’re like me) for the holiday season, simply take a bold, bright marker and write “LOVE” at the top. If you are not a list-maker and don’t have one already, make one. It doesn’t need to have anything on it but the word “LOVE”. Once you have made or edited your list, carry it with you today to remind you of the most important thing that you have to do. If we have “LOVE” at the top of the list, then everything else is secondary. When we seek to love others before we do anything else, we will honor God and our lives will point others to the way of faith.

Jennifer Ingold Asbill is the Associate Pastor for Discipleship at Zebulon Baptist Church in Zebulon, NC.

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