Against The Rules: An Advent Reflection on Love

“When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.”

  – Madeleine L’Engle

The season of Advent rounds out with a focus on love. The story of Jesus is the story of God who loves us so incredibly uncontainably much that God explodes the boundary between divinity and humanity and comes gasping into this world to love us in person. With skin on. And so he does.

God’s love is endlessly surprising, uncontainable, unexpected, unconventional, boundary-breaking, against the rules. And that – a love that refuses to be ordinary, expected, or contained – a love that breaks the rules – is really what the birth of Jesus, and frankly his whole life, and death, and resurrection are all about.

Jesus’ whole ministry was about loving against the rules. A love that chooses mercy instead of violence. A love that chooses the outcasts first, that makes family out of social pariahs, and tax collectors, and sex workers, and widows and children, and the sick and disabled, and the overlooked and forgotten and the hated. Society says keep to your own, stay away from those people, they’re problematic. Associating with them makes you problematic. You’re not allowed to love those people. It’s wrong. It’s unclean. You can’t. And Jesus says: watch me.

And Jesus also says that about loving us – about the most hidden, unbearable, broken parts of us. The love of God, in Jesus, spills right over the barriers we hide ourselves behind. His love seeps like water between the cracks in the walls we put up to protect ourselves.

And it all starts in a manger, in a tucked away, forgotten corner of the world with a young couple who all the rules say shouldn’t be together, but they are anyway. May love surprise us all this Christmas, may it flow through every crack and well up in surprising, beautiful ways.


Image from the cover art designed by Lisle Garrity for the 2017 NEXT Church National Gathering, with the theme “Build wells, not walls.”

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