Today’s reading from Zechariah speaks of God coming to dwell with his people sometime in the future. The reading from 1 John speaks of God having dwelt with his people in the past. Both point to the same thing: God becoming human in the birth of Jesus Christ, and through him having “moved into the neighborhood” as The Message puts it.
The reading from 1 John also makes it clear what God did through Jesus when he got here: he loved us. And because God has taken the initiative to love us so deeply and at such great cost, so too we ought to take the initiative to love each other.
I am not sure when Christianity began to emphasize believing the right thing over doing the right thing, but the real test of the depth of our connection to God is not whether we can quote chapter or verse of the Bible, but how deeply we love one another. And a great way to grow in our love for one another is to remember this Christmas Day how much God loved us in sending us his son. Going back to the idea of God “moving into the neighborhood” in Jesus’ birth, we see that God loves his people by being intimately involved with them.
So here is the question. How deeply are we involved in the lives of those we love? Do we know their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations? Do we know their hurts, their fears, their heartaches, their sorrows? Do we know the gifts that will genuinely bring their hearts joy and delight? Do we know what is capturing their interest, where they are feeling good about themselves, and where they are struggling?
If the answer to all the above is “Yes!,” God bless you and keep on doing what you are doing. You are putting your faith into practice. But, if you are like me and might not be able to answer all the above questions as well as you’d like … well, why not spend a little extra time this Christmas with your spouse, your child, your parent, your friend, your neighbor. “Move into the neighborhood” and enter into their lives in a deeper way than you have before. That is the only way to love others like Christ loved (and loves!) us, and live out the true Spirit of Christmas.
- Father Rob Merola