Do not love the world.

How curious that, during the season of Christmas, we read through the first letter of John! It’s curious because it is not directly connected with the images and story of Jesus’ birth. Yet the more we ponder it, the more we can recognize the connections. This letter is a sort of sermon to the earliest Christians about what life “after Christ” should look like. Now that God has been born among us, John seems to say, each of us faces a personal decision, a fundamental choice between light and darkness. Which will we love?

God invites us into his light, but we must accept the invitation. We must choose between accepting this gift of light and life from God and continuing to live in the dark by loving the world (1 John 2:15). John doesn’t mean that we should not love God’s natural, created world. Rather, he urges us not to love the dominion of the evil one, which opposes God’s values of love, service, and mercy. He exhorts us not to love the glitter and fleeting satisfaction of money, pleasure, and power. Instead, he tells us to love God’s ways and Jesus, the One who used his power to become a helpless baby and then who laid down his life on the cross to save us.

John reminds us that if we want to love the world less and love God more each day, our hearts need to change. It can be hard to let go of selfish ways of thinking and acting. It can be hard to change behaviors that reflect the values of the world. But God always gives us the grace to step into his light. He always gives us the grace to begin to make small but concrete acts of love for him and his people.

In this moment, when the beautiful sentiments of Christmas—the Mass at night, the carols, the peaceful crèche—are still fresh, spend some quiet time with this letter. Let John’s words help you ponder the birth of Jesus, Son of God. Let the Spirit move you to choose the light, to love the One who sent his Son to make you his own son or daughter. Then give glory to God for coming to dwell among us!

“All praise to you, Jesus, for shining your light in the darkness of the world!”

Psalm 96:7-10
Luke 2:36-40
1 John 2:12-17


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