Christmas Meditation: That's Amore
Editor's Note: We had our annual staff Christmas party last week. During each staff gathering, I am always reminded what an honor it is to be part of this global media ministry—the talented and committed staff, the brands that encourage and equip millions of Christian leaders, and the honor to do work that glorifies God. I would like to share one of the highlights from our party—a meditation from David Neff, Vice President for CT Initiative Development and formerly Editor in Chief of Christianity Today magazine.
There's a prayer that Episcopalians use during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Here's a condensed version of that prayer:
"Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light … that in the last day, when Christ shall come again … to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to life immortal."
That prayer is a paraphrase of a biblical exhortation. Romans 13:12: "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light."
A couple of weeks back, our church secretary included that prayer in our congregation's weekly e-newsletter. But there was a slight hitch. Instead of typing "the armor of light," she wrote "the amor—A.M.O.R—of light."
As an editor who is always alert for typos I tut-tutted to myself. But almost immediately I saw a sacred pun rather than a mistake.
Amor is the Latin word for love, and it's the Spanish word for love. It is closely related to amour, the French word for love, and to amore, the Italian word for love—as we just heard Dean Martin sing. "That's amore."
Chances are you know at least one of those Romance language words for love.
As I reflected on the interplay between amor and armor, I thought first about Christ's victory over sin, death, and the devil. Although he could have called on the heavenly armies to wage war against the devil, he triumphed instead through love. And please note, the devil was not God's only enemy. Romans 5 reminds us that we, too, were his enemies.
Romans 5 says that God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Then, in a rhetorical parallelism that signals similar meaning, Paul substitutes "enemies" for "sinners" and "reconciliation" for "love." "[W]hile we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son."
In a great and holy irony, Christ made love his weapon. Some of the early fathers—Origen in particular—described Christ's triumph as a trick that traps Satan. Satan believes that if he can kill the Christ, he will have won the battle. Satan doesn't realize that the resurrecting love of God is stronger than death. In a kind of moral jujitsu, the Christ who loved us so, absorbs in his own body the hatred of the Enemy and all God's enemies and throws them off balance. He comes out the stronger for having taken the blows.