The classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” celebrates the sacrificial love of its main character, George Bailey. As a young man, George gave up his dreams of success and travel, to stay and help his father and his community. When he almost lost everything, it is up to his friends and family to teach him that his selfless acts of love made a difference in their lives.
In today’s reading, we see an intimate moment between Jesus and His disciples. Jesus warned that He would not be with them for much longer (v. 33). He washed their feet and predicted Judas’s betrayal knowing that His time was drawing near (v. 5). Under these circumstances, what important message did He have for them? Simply this: To follow Him, they must love another as He had loved them (v. 34).
How did Jesus love His disciples? He would lay down His life, sacrificially, to accomplish His Father’s will. Jesus would be glorified by obeying His Father, that is, His obedience would bring honor to the name of the Lord (vv. 31–32). At the completion of His mission of salvation, He would return to heaven and sit at the right hand of His Father. Where He was going, His disciples would be unable to follow, but they could continue to follow Him by imitating His example.
We are called to love as Jesus loved. Why? “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (v. 35). In what sense is this a new command (v. 34)? They had been given a new standard: Christ’s perfection. We’ve gone from “loving our neighbor” to “loving our enemies” (Matt. 5:43–45). Loving as Christ did is one of our Advent priorities.
>> Loving one another like Christ loved us can take many forms, including acts of service or sharing our finances/food/possessions (Acts 2:42–47). Consider one way you can follow Christ’s example and show God’s love to someone during this Christmas season.
Lord Jesus, you have told us to love one another as you love us. Please fill our hearts with your love for others and open our eyes to practical ways we can demonstrate your love this week, and throughout this Advent season.