“I love you.” How much of a stumbling block is that phrase for you – to dread hearing it, to dread saying it, to long to hear it, to long to say it? Sadly, for all too many of us, as givers or receivers, these words are emotionally or relationally unavailable, though they are essential ingredients of our healing tonic.
“I love you” is a precious phrase intended to be extravagantly and regularly spent, though genuinely and sincerely. Frivolous or insincere use dilutes its power and leaves the hearer wondering just what was meant of something of which there should never be a speck of doubt. Telling others you love them builds, strengthens, heals, emboldens, affirms, and delights them. While earlier damage makes it difficult for some to hear they are loved, it is still the very balm they need. If saying you love someone causes you to cringe and wince, lift a prayer for God’s help and then say it anyway. Not only will you overcome your dread, but the cost of withholding your expression of love will bankrupt your relationships.
Saying I love you out loud presents the actual Spirit of God, warms the atmosphere, enriches the quality of present relationships, brings fruition to family, and creates family out of mere acquaintances and bonds out of loose tethers. We need to hear that we are loved – some of us desperately. The old story is told of the wife crying to the minister that her husband never tells her and surely doesn’t love her. The husband rebukes her in defense, “Why are you starting trouble over nothing? I told you at our wedding 38 years ago that I love you and that, if that ever changed, I would let you know!” Oy vey!
How do I know all this? God taught me and all of us. Better, God showed me when His love came down at Christmas. When Jesus came into this world at the Incarnation, the Lord was saying “I love you” right out loud to all of us. The result was that the world was built up, strengthened, healed, emboldened, affirmed and delighted. Later would come the eternal blessings of forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.
Jesus came to love us at Christmas. At a gathering of some of our parish’s faithful women, we talked about Jesus turning to His disciples in John 1 and bluntly asking, “What do you want?” The same question might timely be posed to you this way, “What do you want for Christmas?” People might give all sorts of good answers such as health, family, prosperity, friendship or peace. But the only proper answer the disciples or we might give is, “I want you, Lord Jesus.” To love Him and to want only Him is the singularly correct response. To have Him is to have everything. And having Him while lacking something else is to not lack anything at all. Gaining Christ in our lives is of such ultimate worth that the value of everything else can be considered as loss or even as garbage in comparison. Saint Paul taught us this mind-blowing truth in his letter to the Philippians.
As your pastor, with Christmas approaching, I tell you with all my heart that I love you, genuinely and with all the gifts the Holy Spirit has given me to do so. While that might be a pleasing thing for you to hear, it is a small and merely reflective gift of the Christmas love God has given us in Jesus. Isaiah 43:4 especially delights me where God speaks, “. . . you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you . . .” Elsewhere Jesus said, “You are to love others as I have loved you.”
Do you hear that loudly and clearly? God loves us! He says He loves us! He has shown He loves us! He will always love us!
This is all more glorious than any of us can articulate or even imagine. Here in the holy season of Advent, the Holy Spirit raises our hearts to delight in our overwhelming expectation and anticipation of the love of God coming into the world through Jesus at Christmas. He comes to bring us goodness and light and joy and peace and forgiveness and everlasting life, all punctuated by His eternal and life assuring message, “I love you.”