How do you know that someone loves you? Whole books have been written on this subject, but I think it’s pretty simple: the people who love you show up when you need them to. Love shows up.
A few days after Penny was born, when we were still in the midst of a really hard time of processing her diagnosis and what it might mean for us, two of our best friends showed up at our door. They didn’t send flowers or wait until we were “ready” to talk to them. Instead, they put their own 4-month-old in the car and drove five hours. We took a walk, we talked, they held our baby girl. And then they got back in the car and drove the five hours home on I-95. They gave up work that day. They endured at least ten hours on the highway with an infant. And they made sure we knew that they would be there for us throughout Penny’s life, come what may. They loved us that day, and it helped us know they would love us in the days to come. Love shows up.
Or to take a less personal example: when Father Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart (a book I highly recommend), first moved into a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles, he sat in his office and waited for the people to come and tell him their needs. But they didn’t come. Then he started taking walks around the neighborhood, but he noticed that people either scattered or froze. He finally started to visit people in the hospital and in prison. He started to show up for the people in need. He started to inconvenience himself and put himself in uncomfortable positions. He started to show his neighborhood that he loved them, not when they were on their best behavior, not when they were in church, but when they were in need, when they didn’t have it all together. And that’s when they started to trust him. That’s when some of them started to love him back. And that’s when some lives began to be transformed.
John writes, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Another way of saying this would be “God became human and moved into the neighborhood.” On Christmas morning, God showed up. He showed up in the person of Jesus because he wanted us to know that he loves us in our times of need.
It’s up to us whether we will receive the love that shows up. But the offer is there. And if we let that love into our lives, it will change us forever.
That’s why we have a party on Christmas. Because the God of time and space showed up and said, “I love you.”