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Love made visible

Of God’s love we can say two things: it is poured out universally for everyone from the Pope to the loneliest wino on the planet; and secondly, God’s love doesn’t seek value, it creates value. It is not because we have value that we are loved, but because we are loved that we have value. Our value is a gift, not an achievement. – William Sloane Coffin in Credo

A number of years ago I used to have office space at a church in San Francisco that had been built in the early 20th century. The building was a fine Spanish-style stucco edifice with stained-glass windows and a lovely bell tower. In recent years, however, the church had taken on a run-down look with algae gathering on the exterior and mud splattering the insubstantial doors that had been purchased at Home Depot. It looked uncared for. It looked like a place where no one bothered. When you looked at this building – you didn’t feel cared for.

The membership was dwindling in parallel with the building, even though the interior was beautiful and the people gems. The old adage that you cannot judge a book by its cover certainly applied – this was a warm and loving congregation with an unloved exterior. A bequest from a former choir director made it finally possible to paint the exterior walls and window frames. Best of all, a few coats of brick red paint transformed the cheap doors into interesting portals of mystery. The bequest even allowed for a bit of gold leaf to be added to some of the carving above the doors. This little bit of extravagance mirrored the extravagant welcome of God practiced by the congregation. Soon the church began to grow again and it continues to grow in faith and in numbers.

It is often said during this Advent season that in the coming of the Christ child, God’s love for us is made visible. That is the gift of the incarnation that God’s love takes visible and human form. Perhaps during this season we can endeavor to make that love visible in our own lives.

Does the love of God show on your face? Is it evident in your life? Or is the love of God a secret that you share only with yourself? When the love of God shows on our faces, others will find their way toward God. May we all be faces of God’s love for all those whom we encounter who need to feel the realness of God’s love.

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