Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 34; 146, Proverbs 8:22-30, 1 John 5:1-12, John 13:20-35
Though the Christmas season lasts through Epiphany (January 6), once the celebration of the Nativity is over, the lectionary readings don’t waste any time getting back to serious business. The day after Christmas we read about the first martyr, and today we read about the Last Supper and the betrayal of Judas. Do we long just a little for an emotional break, a few days to bask in the glory of Christ’s birth?
Except that’s the thing: there really is no break. No matter how strong our faith, life is a mixed bag.
Take the Last Supper. Jesus knows Judas is about to betray him, and Judas knows it, too. But the Last Supper is also the origin of Communion, which unites us with Christians across time and place. And it also gives us these words from Christ:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Think for a moment what it means that this was a new commandment. What were the disciples doing during all the preceding years they’d been following Jesus? Were they surprised he felt the need to say it out loud to them? Perhaps it’s a lot harder to do – and comes a lot less naturally to us – than we think.
What a gift that commandment is though. When we practice it, that love is a constant, steadying presence in the ups and downs of life. When we practice it, that love helps us celebrate with each other, mourn with each other, and support each other through difficult times. More than agreeing with one another or liking one another, loving one another with the sacrificial love of Christ is a conscious choice. Whether we obey or disobey, it tells people whether we are disciples.
Life in Christ, at least in our present world, will always be a mixed bag. No matter our state, let us choose to love and be loved. Jesus said so.
Comfort: Christ’s love is constant.
Challenge: Listen to They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love.
Prayer: Merciful God, source of all love, teach me to love your children as Christ loves me. Amen.
Discussion: Are you able to love someone you don’t like?
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