Love God, love neighbor this holiday

A recent Wednesday night book series on the history of the Christian Church highlighted for me how consistently Jesus’ message, “love God and love your neighbor,” has been lived out through the centuries.

Throughout the church’s history, in complex theological discussions, in surprising acts of compassion, in achingly tender moments of pure grace, this central “Jesus theme” weaves its way through the lives of the followers of the Christ.

Christians who keep the ancient seasons of the Church are about to move into the season of Advent, that time of watchful waiting when we spend the weeks leading up to Christmas in quiet anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

At the heart of this Advent expectation lays the foundational theme of loving God and loving your neighbor.

Soon the Prince of Peace will steal silently into our world and into our hearts again in the solitary innocence of a baby bearing the Christmas message of love for God and love for neighbor.

This message of Jesus’ love resounds in heartbreaking clarity in the mystery of cross and resurrection, continuing the rhythmic call.

Trumpeted through history in the lives of prophets and saints and ferried safely through the ages in the heart of Christ’s body, the Church, Jesus’ priority of love is our blueprint, our road map through the challenges and difficulties we face.

Love God.

Love your neighbor.

In this simple commandment, Jesus found the essence of all the other laws and all the sayings of the prophets.

In its simplicity, Jesus gave us the criteria by which all our actions can be judged.

Love God.

Love your neighbor.

May these words be the star that guides us as we move into the frenzy of the holidays and once again make the journey to Bethlehem.

Rev. John Mark Ford is the rector of St. Catherine’s, The Episcopal Church in Chelsea. He can be reached by phone at 618-8367 or by e–mail at rector@stcatherinesinchelsea.org.