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Embracing love: Celebrating successes and overcoming jealousy (December 24, 2023)

Love is not beholden to the myth of scarcity, writes Chris Burton. Elizabeth and Mary teach us this.

Outlook Standard Lesson for December 24, 2023
Scripture passage and lesson focus: Luke 1:1-25, 39-45, 56-60

Everyone needs people they can share good news with. At first glance, that is a peculiar thing to need. One would think that good news is easy to digest and something easy to share with just about anybody. Yet life has taught us that there are too many people who somehow, someway, know just what to say to bring clouds to the bluest of skies. I like to think of them as the “What If?” crew. What if that new job is just as difficult as the last one? What if the new house has an unforeseen problem? What if that new car is really expensive to maintain? What if?!

Even worse are the people who are resolute in their devotion to not celebrating another person’s good news. They are simply not satisfied with another person’s success. I imagine that the good news of another person only shows them their inadequacies. It reminds them of the areas where they are unhappy and that unhappiness spills over into a posture that all but screams out “Why not me?”

It is a special kind of love that allows us to celebrate one another. Our Scripture for this week of Advent illustrates this love through the relationship of two cousins, Elizabeth and Mary. Mary visits Elizabeth and her presence causes Elizabeth’s baby to jump for joy (v. 41). Elizabeth is the one being visited, she is the one to whom Mary is giving her attention, and she exclaims, “Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me” (v. 43).

It is not often that a person has the presence of mind to want to share the spotlight. There are too many moments in our lives where we would not have had the magnanimity to celebrate another during our season of celebration. We would be so focused on “our day” that any other celebration would seem threatening and deleterious. Why do we have such a limited imagination when it comes to celebration? Why do we think there is not enough bandwidth to celebrate another in our season of recognition? Elizabeth is not selfish nor is she viewing Mary’s good news as a source of personal inadequacy. Their relationship shows us that love is not a depreciating element; it continues to blossom, benefit, and envelope its participants in abundance.

Love is not a depreciating element; it continues to blossom, benefit, and envelope its participants in abundance.

We need this reminder in our own lives. Love is not beholden to the myth of scarcity. There is plenty of love to go around, and the more you exercise love, the more love you have access to. We need one another’s encouragement, and we need to take the time to celebrate one another.

It is painful that so many of us go through life unrecognized. I am not speaking about the sort of recognition that feeds vanity. I am speaking about the epidemic of worthlessness that is fed by people actively ignoring one another’s contributions to the world. Love is the antidote to the insidious lie that people do not matter. We need this antidote to free us from the heavy weight of insignificance.

It is a painful irony that in this age of social media, where we are technologically more connected than ever, we have a deep disconnection with one another. A disconnection tremendously aided by our navel-gazing and obsession with ourselves. We need the sort of love that breaks us free of loneliness and obsession with self, allowing us to see God in one another.

Love is the antidote to the insidious lie that people do not matter.

It is essential in our journey of loving one another that we love ourselves well. I do not believe that we can truly love ourselves well without firmly believing that God tremendously loves us. When we live our lives completely convinced that God loves us, it creates a space for us to be happy for one another. When another’s success moves us to consider “why them and not me” there is an undergirding notion that somehow God did not provide you with enough. When we do this, we take for granted the gift we do have.

Imagine the loss Elizabeth would incur if she were somehow dissatisfied that her child is merely John the Baptist. What a shame it would be if she were so distracted comparing her blessings that she never recognized the blessings that she has. Why do we allow ourselves the calamitous plight of jealousy?

Let us live our lives knowing that we are loved by God. Let us live convinced that God did not rob us of anything. When we live convinced of God’s goodness, love, and generosity, we have what we need to love one another well. Loving one another well allows us to celebrate each others’ successes and victories. Let us celebrate one another so vigorously that an observer would have a difficult time knowing exactly who has the good news.

Questions for discussion

  1. How do you celebrate another’s success?
  2. In what ways have you experienced God’s goodness and generosity?
  3. Do you feel like you have people you can share your good news with?

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