The Candle of Love

By Bill Mankin

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8b, NRSV)

Henry tells a touching short story The Gift of the Magi about an impoverished young couple who, after paying their rent and groceries, had only $1.87 left for Christmas gifts for each other. But each of them had one precious possession, Jim a gold pocket watch passed down from his grandfather and his father, and Della her luxurious long hair. In an ironic twist, Della sold her hair to a wigmaker to get money to buy Jim a gold chain for his watch, and Jim, not knowing her loving sacrifice, sold the watch to buy a pair of jeweled combs for Della’s hair.  O. Henry concludes this story of extravagant love by saying, “here I have told you the story of two children who were not wise.  Each sold the most valuable thing he owned in order to buy a gift for the other.  But let me speak a last word to the wise of these days: Of all who give gifts, these two were the most wise.  Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the most wise.  Everywhere they are the wise ones.  They are the magi.”

The ancient prophet Micah summarized all the teaching of the prophets in the command “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  When asked to name the greatest commandment, Jesus shortened the teaching to “Love God, love your neighbor.”  We love God, but the tangible way we express our love for God is to love the one that God loves, that is, our neighbor.  Jim and Della loved each other so deeply that they gave as extravagantly as the woman who broke an alabaster jar of ointment and anointed Jesus’ feet.

How are we able to love one another with the extravagant love of Jim and Della?  It is because we are recipients of the love of God.  As the elder John writes, “We love, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19).”  God in his infinite love for the whole human community gave his greatest possession, his only Son, as a Christmas gift to each of us.  It is this great love that shows us what it means to love and to live our lives with a faint reflection of that love as we deal with other persons.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

Prayer: We are grateful, O God, for the example of your love shared with us in your Christmas coming as a child among us.  We rejoice with the angelic chorus, singing “Glory to God in the highest.”  May your love that became flesh and dwelt among us inspire us to love each other in the ordinary work of daily life.  Save us from cynicism that blinds us to the good that abounds in the world.  In the name of the one who came into the world as the Christ Child.  Amen.

Bill Mankin

Ministry and Mission Coach

Wyoming Cluster

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