“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”John 15:9-12 NIV
I used to have a different vision of what a successful life looked like. It was prosperous, defined by comfort and ease, access to vacation homes and new cars, the exercise of a full and satisfying career that earned you awards and accolades. Achievement and recognition, that was success.
But that doesn’t seem to be Jesus’ definition of a life well lived. In Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples in the gospel of John, before he suffered and died and rose again, is all about joy and love. This is what Jesus asked of his disciples: Remain in God’s love. Love each other as I have loved you. Make your joy complete.
We have had Christmases of grief and suffering. We’ve had seasons of doubt and anxiety. The Collins Dictionary folks have named a new term as the 2022 word of the year: permacrisis—an extended period of instability and insecurity. No Netflix series, Christmas parade, or Hallmark movie can stand for long against these painful and dark times, but there is something that can.
Make your joy complete—love each other. The antidote to fear is love.
It sounds so simple! Just love people, and you’ll experience the same joy as the Father. I want to make joy complete, not just at Christmas, although this is a good training ground for joy, but always, no matter the circumstances.
In the gospels, Jesus delighted in his friends. He dined with them. He walked with them. He taught them. He disciplined them. He celebrated their uniqueness. He made them aware of his love. He was ever and always with them, promising he would only leave them for a short while before the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would come and be with them, forever.
The circumstances in first century Jerusalem weren’t any better than we have it today, and yet God’s love abounded. Joy persisted. The presence of love makes our joy complete. God’s love makes our joy complete. The outpouring of that love makes our joy complete.
Maybe you struggle to feel God’s love. Look closer, into the fabric of your life, to see how God has knit his love everywhere. In everything there is an opportunity for you to thread your life with love, in every meal you prepare, in every load of laundry you fold, in every cup of coffee you pour, in every client interaction or grocery store transaction, in every walk through the woods or call with a friend, there are opportunities to remain in God’s love, to make your joy complete.
When we’re able to rest in the assurance of love, the whole earth shouts for joy, the whole earth is a gift.
Points of Reflection
- If the spirit of Christmas brings you joy, what ways of love are embedded in the holidays that you could carry forward into the rest of the year?
- How has God shown you his love?
For the Kids
- What do you think it means to remain in God’s love?
- How do you think love and joy are connected?
God’s love truly is in all things, if we have eyes to see. Choose one task that feels mundane or like drudgery and reflect on how it might be an act of love. Take doing laundry, for instance. Could there be a more mundane task? And yet, each load of laundry I wash, dry, and fold clothes and protects my people from the elements. Clothing is one of the first mercies God gave his new creation after they encountered the snake in the garden. My least favorite task of all, matching socks, can be an act of sacrificial love, socks at the ready for cold feet in the morning. If you think I’m kidding, just try it. Try to take what you hate to do and see if you can find the love of God in it, and see if it doesn’t make you grateful. See if it doesn’t make you joyful. It might take practice, but soon, your joy will be made complete. I promise.
ReadingsRemaining in the love of Christ is like downloading an entirely different operating system for your life. When your life is defined by the love of Christ, space and time itself take on new dimensions. The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel beautifully captures how the gift of Sabbath leaks out into all other areas of our lives, reclaiming both time and space with the holiness and love of God.