By David Jordan
Both Frank Sinatra and the Four Aces sang and made famous the song “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.” In the first verse, we hear:
Love is nature’s way of giving
A reason to be living…
And while the Sinatra croons of love between a man and a woman, the meaning of these brief words from a secular song speak deeply about this emotion we celebrate this time of year. There is indeed something about love that gives us a reason to be living. Whether the love of friendship, romance, or the deep and abiding commitment to and with others that motivates sacrificial stances and actions, the love we hear about in the Bible is all of those things and much more.
In biblical love, the love of God in Jesus, the love we celebrate in this week of Advent, we see this mysterious, majestic and ultimately indescribable movement of the heart and spirit that is response, not initiative. The love we feel and the love we share comes not from within, but from without. We do not initiate it but respond to it. We participate in it and are called to it from a source beyond ourselves and outside of our own self-seeking and personal desires.
It is God’s love that makes possible our ability to love and to be loved. As recipients of God’s loving initiative, we love because God first loved us. From the blessing of creation to the calling and blessing of Abraham and Sarah, to the protection and guidance of the Hebrews in times of trouble, to the prophetic calls for compassion, justice, kindness, humility – each of these culminates in love: the love of God, neighbor, alien and self. And all of these are finally lived out best and most fully in Jesus.
Throughout the troubled and tumultuous history of those who have gone before us, the love of God remains that “many splendored thing,” that golden thread of grace and truth that binds us together, joins us with our past, roots us in our present and calls us to our future – God’s people, blessed to be a blessing – and loved so that we might love others, even as God has loved us.
And though Webster’s lyrics in the song Sinatra sang expressed the love of romance, these words could just as well describe what God has done and is doing in us:
Your fingers touched
My silent heart, and taught it how to sing;
Yes, true love’s a many splendored thing.
Now for this Advent season, may your heart, too, be touched, taught how to sing, and filled with true love – the one true love that God gives to us. And this ultimate love in Jesus, is indeed a many splendored thing. May it come alive – in you!
Merry Christmas everyone.