From Season of Promises
There are people who cannot keep the first commandment because in their heart or hearts they are afraid to keep the second. They look upon human love as something which competes with the love of God, not as it is – something which completes it. This in spite of the words of Christ, who said that it is IMPOSSIBLE to love God and not to love one another, and who implored his followers with his dying breath to love one another. (Caryll Houselander, The Reed of God)
Advent is not completely overwhelmed by the Great Shopping Binge. Not completely. In most cities and towns we also hear about activities geared to nothing more than giving to those who have less. Food banks. Toys for Tots. Winter coat collections for children. Soup kitchens. Salvation Army bell ringers stand in front of stores where the Great Shopping Binge is going on. Local organizations of various kinds take up collections to buy and distribute food and clothing at Christmas. The message of giving for its own sake and unselfishness as an end in itself peeks through here and there, now and then.
Indeed, the tradition of gift-giving at Christmas originated with the idea that since God gives so much to us we should give gifts to one another. We give to one another and in so doing we give to God. Well might we remember the same all during the year. Our love for God only becomes real when we show active love for other people. Indeed, the experience of God’s love naturally compels us to love our neighbors.
Other people are not a distraction from the spiritual life. Other people are central to the spiritual life. Indeed, Christ would not have come into the world were this not so. God’s love and human love are a package deal. That’s one of the messages of Advent.
Loving God of Advent, help me to see you present in the people in my life, and help me to love them by serving them. Amen.