Love is shown not so much by pitying from afar but walking alongside a sufferer. I was quite young when my family lost a baby, but I still remember several families who cared enough to embed themselves in our lives when we needed them most. They could have sent a card in the mail, but instead, they showed up, watched us kids, cooked meals, and were simply there, even if that meant stepping over toy-strewn floors and tackling piles of dishes.
I believe the beauty of the incarnation is not so much in God taking pity on us but in his willingness to come live among us. He didn’t merely “say a word” to save us. He yearned for reconciliation, and in reconciling, came to live among us, in all of our rebellion and brokenness.
In pondering the incarnation this advent, I have been struck with how Christ’s willingness to dwell among us has profound implications for the way I love others. A middle-school girl at church can tell if I’m “hmmming” and pretending to listen to her rather than genuinely entering into her life, even if that means listening to the half-hour version of what she did that day or sympathizing with her school woes week after week. It’s far easier to make little rescue missions from afar and return to our comfortable lives than to really dig in and be faithfully present in a church body, even when our brothers and sisters seem to struggle with the same sins week after week. Likewise, I have deep respect for my brothers and sisters who have sold everything, bought a one-way ticket, and stepped in a foreign culture to live alongside those who would never otherwise hear the gospel. Their willingness to “incarnate” themselves, be it for the rest of their lives, speaks far louder than merely traveling through.
Our callings as believers may be different, but our model is the same: Christ dwelling among us. His sympathy with our weakness gives us strength to sympathize with others. His presence with us enables us to enter the messy lives of those around us and love, even when we risk hurt. And His sacrifice inspires the call of missions—whether in our neighborhood or across the world.