Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. ~ Luke 2:7
We have to pour our love on someone. ~ Mother Teresa
Is there anything in life better than falling in love? It is magical, wonderful, and beautiful. Life becomes so good. We wake up each morning and our first thought is when will we see her/him again. Every meal we eat together is a 5-star gourmet feast even if it’s fast food, just because we enjoy being together. Laughter and smiles come easily. Every walk is a stroll in the Swiss Alps (or the La Platas!).
When we fall in love, all we see is beauty, kindness, and compassion. Judgment and criticism become distant ghosts. We hang on to every word he/she says, and they soak up everything we say. We find each other interesting for there is a mutual indwelling.
When we fall in love, we listen to another person’s heartbeat. We walk lightly on the ground, and we hear the birds singing. We write poetry and sing songs. Falling in love is a Norman Rockwell painting in process.
It is wonderful and so easy to fall into love, but it is quite another thing to stay in love. Can we stay in love with one another and God?
Mary falls into love and sings, “My soul magnifies the Lord,” (Luke 1:46). Is anything better than the deep “yes” of love? John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, had three simple but challenging rules for a way of living well: Do no harm; Do Good; Stay in Love with God (stay in love with people, stay in love with creation).
When I coached football, after practice every player would walk by and shake every coaches’ hand. It was away for us to check in with each other and make sure we were “good.” One day, one of my favorite players (Brad), did not shake anyone’s hand. He left practice and did not come back. After a week, he still had not returned to practice. I had to swallow my pride and drive over to his house to find out what was wrong. We talked for an hour, and I listened to his concerns. We gave each other a hug and Brad returned to practice the next day. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not envious, arrogant, or rude. Love does not insist on its own way” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Love gives up the need to be right. It is challenging work to stay in love. (Note: A couple of years ago, Brad came down to Mancos with his family because he asked me to baptize him and his daughter KK. Thank God for love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.)
As we all know, it’s fairly easy to fall in love, but to stay in love when circumstances do not turn out the way we hope is another thing altogether. Brennan Manning writes, “It is one thing to feel loved by God and others when our life is together, and all our support systems are in place. But what happens when life falls through the cracks?” What happens when someone spurns us? What happens when we fail? What happens when things fall apart? Can we stay in love?
Mary and Joseph fall in love with God and one another. Their “souls magnify the Lord.” They travel to Bethlehem, Joseph’s hometown, to register for the census. The town is full of people and there is “no room for them in the inn.” Barbara Brown Taylor asks an interesting question. “If Bethlehem is Joseph’s hometown, why didn’t his own people take him and Mary in?” Is it possible that they are at odds with one another? Surely, a relative would have a little floor space available. Is there tension in the family dynamic?
The stable is drafty and messy, not the ideal place to give birth to a child. Mary is cold, hungry, and uncomfortable. Taylor asks, “Does Mary get upset, do doubts return, does she wish she was back home with her mother?” What did she get herself into? Does Joseph try to comfort her, and she pushes him away? We cannot know for sure, but we do know that it is hard to stay in love.
But Christmas reminds us of the miracle of God’s Love. “Love comes down at Christmas, Love divine,” as the song says. God’s love and grace does not “lift us out of our lives but comes to us in the midst of our lives,” says Taylor. Mary gives birth to a child and wraps him in “bands of cloth.” She tenderly loves the child who loves her as well. Mary stays in love despite the difficult circumstances she finds herself in.
Isn’t this the choice we make every day in all our relationships? To love or not love?
May we receive and share love in our Bethlehem moments.
May the spirit of Christmas move through us and may we stay in love with God and one another.
Blessings and Peace,