The Gerhardt Files: Lord, How Shall I Greet You, Stanza 2

Rev. Gaven Mize

Love is a difficult thing to understand in the age of American romance. When the movie Titanic came out all the girls in school loved it and all the boys hated it. Love it or hate it, it's hard to forget about the scene where Jack easily could have fit on the floating door at the end. But that scene brings up a good point. Sure, the movie had romance, but it didn't have much love. It had "love breaking down the barriers of the classes," but, no incarnation.

Why has there become such a melding of romance and love? Many criminals have committed the most terrible crimes after "charming over" the opposite sex. Romance never offers the assurance of love. Romance is easy. Love is hard. I can't tell you how many weddings I have attended and heard the 1 Corinthians 13 passage read with the silent implication that the husband's love is always patient and the wife's love is always kind, etc. That's a clear cut case of misappropriating what the Bible is conveying. The reality is that the love in this 1 Corinthians text is about God's love for us. God's agape (one of the Greek words for love) is patient and kind.?

Love always comes with a sacrifice or else it isn't love. Hymn writer Paul Gerhardt knocks this truth out of the park in the second stanza of O Lord How Shall I Meet You:

"Love caused Your incarnation, love brought You down to me;
Your thirst for my salvation procured my liberty.
O love beyond all telling, that led you to embrace;
In love all loves excelling our lost and fallen race."

Love and awaiting the great humiliation of God being made flesh is what Advent is all about. And where love and the humiliation of God in the flesh is the sacrificial love of Jesus on the cross is never far away. The cross isn't very romantic, but it is lovely. The cross is made lovely by the holy body of Jesus. Gerhardt makes this point abundantly clear. The love that placed Jesus on the cross for you is the same love that brought Jesus down to earth for you. Now we can't fully comprehend this type of love. And no matter how many times you add your own name into the 1 Corinthians verse it's still not about your patience, kindness, and the rest. But, it is about you. God has made it about you. That's why He came to earth. He came to die and rise for you. That love, as Gerhardt says, is the love that has brought us into the embrace of God Himself.??

As we continue to prepare for Advent may we keep this stanza in the forefront of our minds. Love, not romance, was Christ's motivation for your everlasting salvation. Love, not romance, is patient with you and that love flows from the wounds of Jesus and into the baptismal font. There, in that font we are forced to come face to face with that love. We are killed by that love, and are resurrected in that love. Ain't love grand? So, no floating door is needed because you have been brought into the arc of the church. You don't need to feel God's tug on your heartstrings in the rain on some sappy movie set, because you wake up dripping in your baptismal grace every morning. Think on these things and know that God's love is absolute. God's love is for you. It's what caused Jesus' incarnation and brought Him down to you. Jesus' thirst for our salvation has freed you from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil. We now lay in the embrace of God; we have been brought onto the dry ground on the other side.

Rev. Gaven M. Mize serves as pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church, Hickory, North Carolina.

Created: December 7th, 2015