given on Second Sunday of Advent, December 6, 2015
- Philippians 1:3-11
- Genesis 32:1-12
- Luke 22:14-20
In the midst of the holiday season, even in the middle of a holiday party, violence erupted. The shooting in San Bernardino, California, shattered the holiday spirit of the nation. The nightmare reaches each and every one of us in a different manner, and it is tough to love.
Consider the angels who are God’s messengers. Can you even imagine what God sent them to do in the midst of the carnage? Can we even consider what the angels are telling us? Why, here it is Advent, can we even consider how to love one another after learning of the massacre half way across this nation?
God spent millenniums using the principle of tough love. He loved all his people and tried repeatedly to guide them to live life loving one another. When a mistake was made, consequences occurred. Tough love is tough to do, yet throughout the Old Testament, story after story shows how much God loved his people. Yet, the mistakes people make had to be addressed with tough love from God.
Where were the angels? The angels were delivering the warnings and the consequences. The Old Testament has angels involved in different ways, but love and forgiveness are part of the messages they delivered.
Even today, in the aftermath of Wednesday’s shooting, Sandy Hook shooting a few years ago, and even 9-11, angels share messages with us, too. We are neither ignored nor exempt from our Christian roles. The messages angels have delivered in the past are still needed today, December 6, 2015.
In fact, messages of loving one another constantly are sent to us via the Holy Spirit, the scriptures we read, and the messages we hear from our real-life angels in our personal world. Why, then, is it tough to love?
Looking through the Bible verses in which angels are part of the story, angels carry messages from God do provide guidance and hope. The earliest story with angels is found in Genesis 32: “Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God?”
Jacob was in a tough situation and was frightened about meeting his brother Esua. Stealing Esua’s birthright, Jacob knew his life was at risk since Esua had threatened to kill him. The angel of the Lord supported the decision to face with encouragement in verse 12 : “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.”
One study note explains how this tough situation continues to apply in many tough situations in our life:
“Now [Jacob] was about to meet this brother for the first time in 20 years, and he was frantic with fear. He collected his thoughts, however, and decided to pray. When we face a difficult conflict, we can run about frantically or we can pause to pray. Which approach will be more effective?
The Old Testament demonstrates how ‘tough love’ works. Today, we use that term or philosophy for techniques that draw clear boundaries for behaviors and consequences. The theory can make dramatic changes in the life of young people who make negative choices risking their own lives or even their families’ and friends’. Tough love is hard work.
Today, angels do exist. Sometimes they are not identifiable or do not appear as the Biblical-style angel; sometimes they are the people who influence our own lives. Angels can be the very closest individuals in our life who practice tough love when we make poor decisions.
The book, What Does the Bible Say About . . ., makes this statement:
. . . it is much harder to do the tough work of living it (love). Love as God intended it is more than just passion, romantic feelings, or sentimental expressions. It involves commitment, sacrifice, and service–the kind of things that benefit both the giver and the receiver.
When loving is tough, use tough love.
Right now society worldwide is struggling to understand the mindset of the radicals that carry out vile acts against humanity. We need angels who can guide us in using tough love not only with our own behaviors but in managing the behaviors,
Consider the first responders to the scenes of violence or even accidents. They are humans but they are angels. When the journalists were interviewing Lt. Madden in San Bernardino, he used love to carry him through the experience.
His role was to find the shooters, and being the first to see the result of the massacre, he had to race on. As much as he wanted to stop and care for the dead and the injured, he had to locate the shooter(s) in order for the nightmare to end. He certainly assumed the role of angel to the victims.
In that moment, the Lieutenant was forced to make a tough decision. But at the same time, the love that flowed from one victim to the next was as real as the blood that drained from the wounds. Those who could helped those who needed it. Angels shared God’s love with each human touch, with each word of solace, and with each action to help one another.
In a world filled with trials and tribulations, each time one provides an outpouring of love for another, God’s love moves into action. Angels serve as God’s messenger; and in tough times, using love to serve creates real-life angels. The news may tell the story, but in each story there are angels demonstrating God’s compassion for his children. Even when the news reports violence half way across a nation, we can identify real life angels teaching us how to use love, even tough love, to provide love for one another.
God sent angels and shared messages through a variety of ways such as scripture, prophets, and actions to teach us how to love one another. Yet, when the people failed to hear the message, he made one more move to save his children. God sent his angels to tell of the coming Messiah. Did the people hear the message?
The three years that Jesus lived out his role as the Messiah, he selected the apostles, he trained them, he healed the sick, he loved each person and he showed us just how to love one another. The apostles walked beside him, they ate with him, and at the last supper, Jesus shared a final meal.
Angels announced the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus, cousins. They lifted their voices heralding the baby Jesus’ birth so that all knew of the miracle. Those who heard and saw the angels made the journey to Bethlehem. The message had been fulfilled. The shepherds and the Wise Men went to the manger to see for themselves.
The angels’ messages included in the scriptures can be just as much a message to us today as it was to the apostles during Jesus’ time. And today we will join in sharing the bread and the cup in unity with the apostles and generations that have passed. Have we heard the message? Have we done whatever we can do to share God’s love?
The vile events of this week is a reminder that God loved us so much that he sent us his son who died for us so that we may have eternal life. Maybe you have heard the angels already or maybe some individual in your life taught you how to use love. Jesus lived it and taught it so today we remember the tough love God used as Jesus was born, he lived, died, resurrected and will come again.
Listen carefully as you share in the bread and the cup. Is there an angel trying to reach you? Have you had an angel in your life already? Is everything challenging you or do you know someone else who is challenged? Maybe God is sending you as an angel for someone else.
This past week we are reminded that it is tough to love, and we know that tough love is hard to administer. As we join in communion, think of all the angels that have loved you. Let us commit ourselves to practice loving one another whether it is tough or not. While we take and eat the elements let’s pray over the evil lurking in our communities. For those who are tough to love, may we use tough love or any form of love to spread the angels’ message of God’s unconditional love for each one of us.
Dear loving and forgiving Father,
Many families are grieving this weekend,
Send them angels with messages of Jesus’ love.
Open our hearts, our eyes, and our sound
To hear and to recognize the messages you send.
As we hear the comforting words from scripture,
From hymns, and even from angels sitting beside us,
Fill us with the love Jesus taught the apostles
So we, too, may love one another in your name.
And as this nation continues to use tough love
Along with other countries fighting evil forces,
Guide us in ways to love one another
Granting grace as you have given us grace. –Amen