The Bible readings for the Second Sunday of Advent are gathered around the theme of love, specifically the love portrayed with the Hebrew word [חֶסֶד] “Chesed.”
Chesed is most often translated into English as Steadfast Love or Loving-Kindness. It’s used to describe love in a relationship of covenant or mutual agreement in which the two parties are committed to each other. It can evoke a marriage love, but also that of a mother and a suckling child, or that which moves us to visit the sick; give charity to the poor, and offer hospitality to stranger. It’s the love the pulls the Exiles back from Babylon to home, which is prayed fervently for in the Psalm, moves us towards making and building peace in the world, and to which John the Baptist points.
The scriptures also talk of Comfort, a word which we often use but which doesn’t mean the same thing. Hygge is a Danish word which has recently caught on in our culture. It is is a tricky word to define, it’s a feeling, an experience, a sensation. It means creating a warm atmosphere. It is enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm amber glow of candlelight is hygge. Stomping through woods, wrapped up warm on a fresh Autumn day before returning to a fireside for hot cocoa is definitely hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. I love the word and what it evokes, yet like comfort, it can paint the picture of comfort and love without risk or disruption.
Throughout the readings for today (and the Bible narratives) chased-Love is not portrayed as without risk, also comfy, easy, warm, and higgle. It’s a love that is fierce and active, which will not settle for what is simply because it’s the path of least resistance, or what we’ve know. It’s earthy and muscular, inherently with risk; for it’s a love that disrupts our brokenness, our fear of relationship, and our complicity. It pushes, pulls, and loves us to risk something new, deeper, more expansive and whole. It’s what carried the Exiles on their reverse Trail of “Joyful” Tears back home from Babylon. It’s what attracted the crowds en masse to the prophetic speech of John the Baptizer.
In the gospel of John Jesus is portrayed as the Word of Life, eternal, co-equal with God, creating, redeeming, active, disrupting and chased. Jesus is the word of life in all of its wild risk, deep embrace and healing liberation. Reflecting on the scriptures and the inherent wonder of the season of Advent, how do you settle for a love that’s maybe more hygge than chesed; seeking to be comfortable and without trouble more than risking the vast risky unknown path of chesed liberation, and transformation?