In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
The hours are ticking down to Christmas morning, and for
most of us, there will be a flurry of gift-opening, paper strewn around the
room, smiles of delight, expressions of wonder and cries of excitement from the
youngest among us.
Then someone will pick up the trash: the wrapping paper, the
ribbons and bows, the tags and the packaging. Someone will pick up the trash
and put it in a bag, and put the bag out of sight while everyone else admires
the things that have been given.
We may think of the gift-giving as an act or a word of love,
but we need to remember that picking up after is a word of love, as well.
Gary Chapman has written a series of books on how we
communicate our love for others. He claims there are five love languages, or
ways of showing love:
acts of service,
and words of affirmation.
At Christmas, we all understand the first one. We choose
gifts carefully to match the interests and tastes and perceived needs of our
loved ones, or perhaps we feel pressured to spend as much as possible to show
that we love them in a way they can understand. If you are *not* someone who
thinks of gift-giving as a word of love, but your partner or child *is,* you
may have some trouble communicating at this season of the year.
Now, I grew up hearing this repeated refrain about gifts:
“It’s the thought that counts.” I realize now it’s usually an excuse for a bad
present! But I was a very earnest child, and I took those words to heart, and I
do believe it. I am really more interested in knowing that the people who love
me were *thinking* of me than in how much they spent or where they shopped or
what they bought or made in the end. I’m invested in the process, both as the
giver and the receiver. This is what has kept me up late on more than one
Christmas Eve finishing a handmade gift, beginning in college with a
cross-stitch I made for my grandmother, an image of two historic houses she
What might be keeping me up late this Christmas Eve, I
cannot say, as it would spoil a surprise!
But we don’t all speak our love this way.
My husband understands love primarily as acts of service.
This was never clearer to me than a few weeks ago, when I pushed the top rack
of the dishwasher closed hurriedly, only to hear a glass breaking inside. It
was a heavy glass, and it shattered into what must have been a million pieces,
scattered throughout the dishwasher. Pure Luck came into the kitchen, assessed the
situation, and without being asked began to pick up the pieces of glass. When
they were too small for fingers, he picked them up with the sticky side of a
big piece of duct tape.
So perhaps it should have come as no surprise to us that
when Snowman and The Princess asked what he wanted for Christmas, he told them, “I don’t need
anything. Why don’t you get something for a child who is in need, instead.”
Thursday afternoon, #1 Son, Snowman, The Princess and I went out to
the mall. We found the Salvation Army’s Giving Trees and looked over the few
remaining tags hanging there. We picked one for a ten-year-old boy,
Christopher. Each tag has a place to check off or list sizes for certain items
of clothing, and at the bottom there are blank lines for requesting a
particular toy. For some reason we came back to this child, whose modest
requests included cap and gloves, a Tamagotchi (which is a little electronic
“pet”) and something listed mysteriously as “Bobo the Reptile.”
We tried KB Toys in the mall, where we learned that the Tamagotchis
were sold out. No one anywhere had heard of Bobo the Reptile, and so our
Christmas fetch quest continued. We regrouped and headed for Toys R Us, where
the Tamagotchis were plentiful and #1 Son found something called RoboReptile.
We looked at the card again and concluded that the names of the toys had been
dictated, and it was perfectly possible that an uninformed adult might here
RoboReptile and write down Bobo the Reptile instead.
Our Act of Service on Pure Luck’s behalf had become quality time,
which included physical touch and words of affirmation, all in the pursuit of
the right gifts. The next day we wrapped Christopher’s presents and returned
them to the mall in a gift bag, with enough batteries for two go-rounds for
Bobo—I mean ROBO Reptile.
We may each have our preferences for how we speak or show
our love, but the truth is, love is about being whole. Love is about finding a
way to stretch into understanding each other—even, and perhaps especially, when
our languages are not the same. Love is knowing that the clean-up of a broken
glass has just as much sparkle as a shiny piece of jewelry on Christmas
That’s revolutionary talk in our culture, where so many
people will spend extravagantly for things that nobody really needs anyway.
God’s Word sent to us was revolutionary, too.
God’s Word, with God in the beginning and throughout all
time, was and is a complete love language.
God’s Word, Jesus, employed the five love languages in his
teaching and in his actions. He healed the blind and the lame and the dying
with physical touch; he spent quality time talking long after dinner to those
who were trying to understand him, despite knowing his time was short; he modeled
acts of service by feeding thousands with a few loaves of bread and by reminding
us that those who care for the poor and the marginalized will someday be with
God; he gave us the gift of forgiveness; and in his living and in his dying and
in his Resurrection, Jesus IS God’s Word of Affirmation that we are loved.
In the beginning was the Word of Love, and the Word of Love
was with God, and the Word of Love was and *is* God.
And that’s what we need to remember when we are feeling
overwhelmed tonight or tomorrow by last-minute shopping or baking or cooking or
wrapping. This Word of Love is God’s gift to us, not just at Christmas but in
all times and places. May we speak to one another always with words of love, in
celebration of Jesus Christ our Savior, the Word of Love. Amen.