Dec 12, 2019 Second Week of Advent – Day 12 of the Advent Alphabet
L is for love.
“My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and God’s love becomes complete in us—perfect love!” (1 John 4:11-12) (The Message)
When I was a teenager, I went through a time of spiritual searching. There was a period of about three years after my family moved out of the neighbourhood of our home church, and before I had a driver’s license, when I got to church only if someone else drove. (Buses did not run all that regularly on Sunday mornings.)
There was a guy named Dan who was vigorously trying to “save me”. In his way of thinking, this meant I had to say that I believed certain things about Jesus, repeat a simple prayer, and then my eternal soul would be assured of a place in heaven. If I sound a bit cynical about this, it is because I am. There were members of my family who’d been raised on this kind of “Old Time Religion”, and I had heard it all before. Maybe because I heard it as a young child, the frightening images of eternal hell-fire and sulfurous damnation actually got to me. Dan would preach this vile stuff, warning that if Jesus came back this afternoon I would not be with those on the roll to be called up yonder. (The pictures he painted made it hard to fall asleep at night.)
I sometimes went to church with Dan. He would pull up to my house in his little yellow Volkswagen beetle- an original, not one of the neo-retro versions we see today. I knew that as soon as I got in the car he would start in with his monologue. Dan had two things he liked to talk about: the valiant Russian soldiers who fought against the German army in world war two, and the horrors of what would happen if I didn’t get saved. (I realized years later that Dan was fighting his own particular military campaign, for his idea of Jesus.)
One bright Sunday morning Dan and I went to worship at an evangelical church. I ‘d suggested this church because there was a young woman I knew who attended there, who had a friendly smile. She wasn’t there that Sunday- at least I didn’t see her. But God was there. There was a feeling in that place. I had been in churches before that seemed to be places of reverence- in the sense that people became quiet when they walked in- a kind of holy hush. This sanctuary seemed different. I felt an aliveness in the room, that did not seem to have much to do with the worshippers, or the music, or even the preacher (who in tone, and content, sounded very much like Dan.)
I experienced for a few minutes in that place a sense of God’s presence. It was reassuring, like a kind person’s smile, or a hug from a toddler. This presence seemed to be saying, “I know you. You’re going to be okay- don’t worry about what they’re saying. You are loved.”
It didn’t happen that day, but there came a time, a few months later, when I had a conversion experience, and made a conscious decision to follow the way of Jesus. I don’t know if I got saved, but I know that I am loved by God. And so are you.
The Advent Alphabet is a ministry offering from Rev. Darrow Woods, pastor at the United Church in Harrow, Ontario. Each day in Advent, a different letter of the English Alphabet will be a jumping off place for a reflection. These reflections will be sent out via email to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, and will also be posted to Rev. Darrow’s Facebook page.