On Monday, I wrote about my problems with Advent. After a rather snarky start, I said Advent was hard for me, in part, because of the words associated with it: hope, peace, joy and love. At the end, I said that I would take a word a week and write about my problems with it. To make it easy on myself, I’m starting with an easy one: “love”.
Right about now, you’re thinking “How can he have a problem with love? Love is awesome.” You’re right, love is awesome. It’s what makes the world go round. And, as a concept or an abstract, I don’t have any problems with love. It’s putting it into practice that I struggle with.
Practicing love is hard because most people are so damn unlovable. And, yes, I’m counting myself in that. In fact, I think I’m one of the most unlovable people I know. I’m a moody, cranky, crotchety old fart I prefer “curmudgeon” who is entirely too quick to shoot his mouth off about ill-conceived opinions and is judgmental as hell. The only reason that anyone can stand to be around me is that, over the years, I’ve learned to restrict my nastier comments to a rather caustic inner monologue. Here’s the thing, however: the people closest to me, who really know me and know about these unsavory aspects of my personality, love me anyway. And, I really don’t understand why.
Earlier, I said “as a concept or an abstract, I don’t have any problems with love” and while that’s true, I don’t really understand it the context of Advent. I mean, I understand that God’s love fills us and surrounds us all the time, that Jesus’ entry into the world is evidence of that love, that there’s no greater power than love, etc. But, how does all that work in a world where we seem intent on getting ours at the expense of those around us?
It’s all too easy to be cynical these days. even about Christmas, a time when people put aside their greed and pettiness to help others and enjoy their families. You’re probably thinking “Really? Christmas, like love, is awesome. What could you possibly find to be cynical about?” How about the fact that people only do this kind of stuff at Christmas and say “Screw it” for the rest of the year? And, what about Black Friday? Less than 24 hours after our national day of thankshell, not even that. Many stores are opening Thanksgiving Day, mobs of people turn out to gouge, kick and hit in the hopes of scoring a “deal” on some pile of crap they don’t really need. Is it cynical to think we have a pitiful understanding of love in the face of these and other instances of man’s inhumanity to man or is it just realism?
But, maybe I’m misunderstanding love in the context of Advent. Since it’s a time of reflection and anticipation of God’s love in the flesh entering the world, maybe it’s more about contemplating how that love will impact us and, in turn, how it can help us impact our little corner of the world. Am I oversimplifying things? Probably, but at least it’s a concept that I can get head around.
Yes, this idea is really a no-brainer. Believe me, no one understands that better than I do. You’d know that if you could see the bruise on my forehead from the massive facepalm that occurred when I figured it out. I have a feeling the rest of this series will work out in a similar manner. In other words, I’m going to have one hell of a headache by the time this is over.