Christina Rossetti, an 19th century English writer, wrote a poem, “Love Came Down at Christmas.” You may have heard it set to music, it goes like this:
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
In our final week together in Advent, our word of focus is Love. It is not a love of Christmas parties, last minute gifts, or sentimentality, it is Love Divine, Love Incarnate. As you steep in God’s Holy Scriptures this Lectio Divina, dare to wonder where love is needed among those you serve and where you’d like to experience Love Divine in your own life. Ponder what it means to you that Love came down, that Love is with us, and that Love is the world’s greatest gift ever received or to be given.
Find your quiet space with Jesus. Light your candle, but this time consider it shining forth Love Divine. Let’s begin.
Advent Reading Week Four ~ Love
Before reading or listening, take a moment to breathe in and out slowly. As you breathe this time, imagine that you are breathing in God as love and exhaling stress, worry, doubt and fear. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in this sacred reading. Read the following passage slowly. As you read, let the words reach your heart and avoid analyzing the text.
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’
Mary’s Song of Praise
And Mary said,Luke 1:39-56 (NIV)
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
And Mary remained with her for about three months and then returned to her home.
As you read the passage a second time, notice if there is a word or phrase that touched your heart. Sit with the word given. Write it down and notice what stands out to you about that word or phrase. Write down those thoughts. You may use these questions to help:
—What in this passage felt loving to you?
—What in this passage felt uncomfortable to you? What is going on in your life right now to which these words apply or connect?
—How does this word or phrase touch a longing you still hold? Invite Jesus to illuminate that longing.
—Ask Jesus, is there something you want to say to me?
—Our final week of Advent focuses on Love. Is there anything in your word or phrase that speaks of God’s love for you, for others, or over a situation in your life?
—Where do you sense you need to experience Divine Love in this season?
Read the Scripture passage again. Do you have a praise, petition, or word of gratefulness that you would like to share with God? You may journal your prayer, draw, write a poem or engage in another form of prayer. As you share, here are some questions to prompt reflection:
—Where do you sense God meeting you in this word or phrase? —How does this reflection move you to pray or praise?
—As you pray, share all the spaces you’d like for God’s love to reach.
—Give thanks for how God has met you in these Lectio Divina practices. Thank him for the love he’s revealed. Spend time enjoying the relationship you have with Jesus.
Read the passage one last time. Rest in God’s love. “Be” present with God and let his love wash over you. Open yourself to a deeper knowing of the depth of God’s love for you and his creation. You may use the following questions for this closing:
—What is God’s invitation to you in this reading? —Is there hesitation, fear, excitement, joy in the invitation?
—What conversion of mind, heart, and life is the Lord asking of you?
—Where in your life and ministry would you like to experience more of God’s love? Share that with him now.
—How does your word or phrase reflect the Love that Rossetti describes in her poem?
Thank you for joining me throughout Advent in Lectio Divina. I pray you can look back at the time you’ve spent contemplating Hope, Peace, Joy and Love through scripture with a sense of having been close to Jesus. I hope you continue to go to the scriptures with the same enthusiasm and anticipation as the shepherds when they said, “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” (Luke 2:15, MSG) Never forget that Christ came because he longs to be with you.
Now nearer to Christmas, we set our hope on Christ who has given us peace, joy and love, and promises to complete what he has started. Christ has not left us, nor forsaken us—he promises to return. It is for that reason that you are serving overseas. As you go forth into the world to share the Good News, the “Great Joy” of Jesus, don’t forget to sit with the babe in the manger in awe and wonder. May Emmanuel be the light in your darkness who brings you hope to know that all you do is not in vain and who you are is Beloved. May Christ be the joy that encourages you to press on and the Divine Love that fills your soul daily with new mercies. Have a blessed Christmas!