NORTH SUMMIT CHURCH

Love - Advent 2020

Luke 1:26-28
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

We’ve all gotten bad gifts. And I don’t mean the “you got me this ugly sweater?” kind of bad gift. I mean the kind of gift that feels more like an expectation in festive wrapping paper. These kinds of gifts are, in fact, no gifts at all. They are transactions, and often, manipulative ones.

Mary has obviously gotten bad gifts before too. Her response is telling.

Luke 1:29
“but she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be”

It’s almost as if Mary is wondering to herself “What kind of gift is this? What do you want from me? What am I missing from this too-good-to-be-true scenario?”

Life teaches us to expect a catch. We wait for our “luck to run out.” We think that at some point the check is going to come, and we’re not going to be able to pay it. We feel the burdensome expectations of life, and, most of the time, we feel like we are barely keeping up. We put expectations on others and are disappointed when they don’t live up to them.

This is life in the transaction.

But God’s love is different. He reminds us, along with Mary, “there’s no catch.”

Luke 1:30
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

The “favored one” needs reminding that she has “found favor with God.” We all need reminding.

C.S. Lewis in his book “The Four Loves” describes something called gift-love.

Gift-love is the opposite of transaction. Gift-love is the kind of love which neither expects nor requires reciprocation. It is entirely dependent on the giver. With this kind of love, the receiver has only to receive.

This is the kind of love God has for us. The only fitting response to this kind of love is an actively-passive response. It’s a posture of heart bent towards reception. It does not say “I’m going to make this happen,” but simply, “let it be.”

Luke 1:38b
“And Mary said, “Behold, I am a servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.”

Mary gives herself to God, not out of compulsion, duty or strain — but out of love. The gift-love of God produces love in Mary.

This is the most contested point for all of us transaction-loving-folks (read: everyone).

Gift-love is generative! It generates love! Gift-love produces spontaneously and from the heart that which transaction-love, with all its obsession over tit-for-tat, can only ever fake.  

If you don’t believe me, here’s Mary’s response to the gift-love of God:

Luke 1:46-55
 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And 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 mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”


Mary uses some form of “he has done this!” Nine different times in this short vertical focused poem. It’s all about Him and what He has done! When you’re dealing with the God of gift-love, you can’t help but notice the ways He loves. You can’t help but praise. You can’t help but love him.

This Christmas, remember that God’s love is gift-love. Only ever gift-love.

Let it be.



Prayer:

Lord, remind me of your gift love. Help me receive. Let it be!

Practice:

Make a list of the ways you feel your relationship with God has been transactional. What are the “be-this-or-else” or “do-this-or-else” habits or ways of thinking that you can confess and repent of?

Once you’ve acknowledged your own transactional-love tendencies, thank God that His love is nothing like yours.

Write out a prayer of praise, a vertical focused prayer, thanking Him for his gift-love.