15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
Today’s thought was about love. Too often love is conditional – we hear “I love you if…” Today’s reading from Deuteronomy seems to be about conditional love too – God says “I love you if you do as I say.” How different are these, really? It is perhaps because the “ifs” humans put on love are often shallow – whereas, if you read what God is saying in the reading is really “I love you if you love me”. The restating of the law into two commandments hammers this home – the first of these is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
Pondering both of these – is God demanding love with threats, or offering absolute love if only we can love him? – is more perhaps for Easter than for Advent. Our Dean caused quite a stir with his 2007 Lent Talk for Radio 4. I won’t even pretend to be enough of a theologian to be ale to debate the finer points of substitutionary atonement. But I do feel that God is calling to me to love him, not just to obey. And that in amongst the cutesy images of the babe in a manger, children with tea towels as shepherds, and kings bearing gifts, we need to pause. I sat in Evensong the a week ago, listening to the choir singing a beautiful anthem. And then, back getting stiff, I shuffled in my seat. I found myself looking up towards the high altar and the crucifix on the screen behind. And I remembered why God gave his son to us. Not to offer us a Christmas of celebration – the birth of a baby is almost always a cause for great joy – but because he loved us so much that he would give us his son to die on the cross for us.
Today’s action was tough – spend a day thinking on God’s love – not very easy on a work day! However, I did manage some time on the train this morning, and a little time just now. And in a way, I guess that was seeking for wisdom – which is what today should be all about. Yes, today is the sign Christmas really is just a few days away – we get the first of the great ‘O’ antiphons of Advent – O Sapientia – O Wisdom:
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
As for some music? We’ve not had for a few days – and those who don’t like choral music might not like it – but here is a flashmob version of Bob Chilcott’s O Sapienta: