these three remain

Merriest of Christmases to YOU! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’m sorry about that.

I always apologize. People get mad at me for it, actually. Even right now, as I start to type, I feel like I should apologize for the way my stream of consciousness might be read. But, I’ll avoid saying ‘sorry’ today. Because it’s Christmas! And saying sorry is reserved today for those gifts that aren’t well-received, burnt ham and running out of deviled eggs.

Nope, today you will not find me apologizing. #nottoday!

It’s Christmas. And since I last typed, it was Thanksgiving and the season of hustle and bustle leading up to today. And I honestly didn’t get wrapped up in any of it. I kind of took Thanksgiving off this year, if you will. And I’ve not allowed myself to get pulled into the current of Christmas crazy either. I didn’t even *gasp* send out cards. That one alone will send packing on a guilt trip vacation but I actually caught more people with a more intentional message and a couple of photos on Facebook. Who knew?!

Instead, I’ve been focused on some other things. One of them has been this notion of the three that remain. If you’re familiar, there is a quite popular set of verses in the Bible affectionately coined ‘The Love Chapter.’ (And for some reason, right in this moment, I can only hear Barry White’s voice sharing those words. No one says love quite like he does).

It’s really a beautiful passage. But what I’ve been considering is the last verse:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13

Why three? What is it about three? To be honest, I have no clue. I was actually just trying to understand the relationship between them. Hear me out.

It’s been a long time since I struggled with my faith. Please know that I’m not boasting in any way in saying that. I just have reached that point where I no longer question. But what is faith? The way I understand it, faith can be defined by two actions. It’s believing in a thing and it’s also committing to the thing. I heard it explained recently by a friend (unbeknownst to him) about how he chose to move forward after losing his son. He said something to the effect of, ‘you know, i said we have to sit back and ask ourselves … do we really believe what we say we believe? and if we do, well … ok then.’ It sounds so simple but it was truly one of the most beautifully stated testimonies I’ve ever heard. It fit so perfectly with that definition of faith because he was essentially voicing that 1) I believe in a God who is who He says He is and that He sent His son as a way to pull us back into a relationship with Him and 2) that I’m going to trust that He’s walking with me (and quite possibly carrying me) because as luck would have it, I’m still here so He’s not done. I’m thankful that although circumstances may absolutely suck, I can hang on to my faith. (sorry about the word suck. it is occasionally appropriate.)

Hope is where I was really camping out, though. I shared with my small group that I felt like out of the remaining three, hope was the one I could really latch on to at the moment. I have to say that right after I said that doubt crept in like I was just saying that to avoid one of the other two. But what is hope, anyway? It’s complicated. I mean, honestly, if people say that faith is a difficult concept I think hope is equally as challenging if for nothing more than we’ve just gone and confused the meaning. We’ve made hope this really hokey and sort of meaningless word. We say things like, ‘i hope i don’t burn dinner!’ and ‘i hope the patriots win so connor doesn’t have to cry about it later!’ But that really doesn’t mean anything. It’s more like a wish. And although I hear wishes come in threes as well, I feel like Aladdin is really the only winner.

Instead, hope means something entirely different for me. It’s this expectant (read: future) belief that God’s going to come through. It becomes similar to faith except it’s not about right now. It’s what’s to come. I chose to set my sights on hope because, honestly, someone challenged me to. He told me I’ve neglected considering what my vision is for myself; what do I believe God can do? And can I find this expectant wonder like Paul talks about?

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!” – Romans 8:15-17 (MSG)

Read that again. Isn’t it so awesome?! I love that it gives nod to the expectancy that makes up hope but it also points to identity … something else I’ve been working hard to reconcile as well.

But, that leaves the ‘one.’ And then I went to a service celebrating a young person and while I won’t share details, what I’ll say is that the concept of the three came up and it resurrected these thoughts for me. It might not have been intended but what I heard that evening was why one remains. It’s the foundation. Going back to the beginning? Love.

Shoot. I really don’t want to talk about it. But, as I thought about it more and more, I realized that you just can’t have faith and hope without love. It is who God is. It is His very nature. And if we don’t have Him, well, we don’t need faith. Hope either. All of it is actually pointless.

So why today? Why do we talk about love today? Well, pastor told me to. Ha! I mean, he sort of did. Because it’s Christmas. And here we are again surrounded by family and friends wearing their most elastic-y of pants and rolls of wrapping paper you wish would run out but this year is different. My family’s focus shifted. There was some intention behind that as we talked about making this Christmas a little different but it also came through in PJV’s series he’d titled ‘Advent Conspiracy.’

What it all boils down to is this (in my humble opinion). If you ever wonder about what love is, think of Christmas. God, in the greatest singular act of love ever recorded, sent His son into the world by way of a dirty, stinky stable knowing full well that the only way to redeem what was lost so long ago in the Garden was for His son to make His way here – being fully God and fully man – only to suffer the most vicious and unnecessary death that ever occurred. Some say God can’t feel pain (or that He just doesn’t) but I have to say, being a parent and considering for one second how that would feel, I respectfully disagree. But, I’d ask you to consider what that means He feels about you. For just a second.

So while I have faith and my hope is increasing, I won’t have either if I don’t have love. The Love Chapter (Barry!) reiterates that. This Christmas, I pray so freaking hard that you feel how much God loves you. That you know He is who He says He is and that He is in this place with you (faith) and that He has a plan for you that’s actually going to be ok (hope).

I love you all so much. Merry Christmas.

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