Love Changes Everything

CHRISTMAS 2012 – St Matthew’s, Guildford

In the late 19th century, the English poet, Christina Rossetti wrote several Advent and Christmas carols, the most well-known, and still occasionally sung are “In the bleak mid-winter” and “Love came down at Christmas”. The latter of these is very simple and reads,

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

In the late 20th century, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Don Black wrote a musical entitled, “Aspects of Love”. The key song in the musical is “Love changes everything”. And you probably recognise it better than “Love came down at Christmas”. In part, it goes:

Love changes everything:
Hands and faces,
Earth and sky,
Love changes everything:
How you live and
How you die

Yes, Love,
Love changes everything:
Now I tremble
At your name.
Nothing in the
World will ever
Be the same.

And, late in the first century AD, St John, in his first Letter, tells us,

“God’s love was revealed among us in this way:
God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us
and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.”

The hymn, the song and the Scripture reading together proclaim one message: Love changes everything. The love of God coming to us in the form of a baby changes all of human history. Even our simple delineation of BC from AD – or BCE and CE for the more secularly-minded – divides all of our history into two. It’s the difference of which we heard from the prophet Isaiah a few minutes ago:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us…”

The coming of this Child changes everything and “nothing in the world will ever be the same.”

I have grown rather tired in recent weeks of hearing sentences which begin with “the true meaning of Christmas is…” And then they talk about families, about feasting, about barbeques on the beach, “it’s for the children”, and so it goes on.

And all of these are undoubtedly true for a majority of the population.

But for you and me, for those who are willing to come away from the festivities in the middle of the night / on a morning when we could have slept in till the crack of noon – for us there is at least a glimpse of something more. We feel hope, we see with the eyes of faith, and we begin to experience love, love with a capital L!

In a world where life so often seems hard, dangerous and fleeting, we are people who can see that above and beyond the troubles of a troubled world there is Love. But not just above and beyond: this Love is right here among us, shown ever so clearly in this Baby in a manger, and in the Man upon a cross at Calvary, and in the Man who left his grave empty and walked again among his followers.

This Love is not one which denies the tragedies and troubles of our human life: this Love walks and weeps with us. This Love, as the song says, “changes … how you live and how you die”.

This Love walked with my Dad for eighty-one years until his death a few months ago, and this Love walked with him through death into a better life, and this Love walked with me through the loss and the funeral and walks with me still.

This Love was present even at Sandy Nook Primary School and walks with those who are open to his comforting presence in that immense human tragedy, as well as with all who seek to prevent such evils.

This Love is still with us as we call and work for peace and wholeness in our world, in our families and in our inner being. Because God in love sent us Love at Christmas, “Nothing in the world will ever be the same”.

And we can go from this place with Rossetti’s pledge on our lips and in our hearts:

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!