If you’ve not seen it yet, it’s a wonderful video themed around love, rather than gift-giving (although a few stray Waitrose bags sneak in). 8 animations by different artists depict the passing on of love – rather than presents – to strangers, neighbours and lost, lonely people. People help mend a flat tyre, fix broken glasses and share a Christmas cracker with an isolated neighbour.
The lovely thing is that none of this is new. John Lewis is only re-creating the glimpses of positivity we’ve seen shining through the doom and gloom of the headlines over the last year. People in different countries and communities around the world have loved each other in unprecedented ways, big and small.
After a long, bleak year, encouragement to give (and receive) love at Christmas is what the world needs to hear.
But is it the only message?
John Lewis is right – encouraging us to pass on love, especially to those who lack it in their lives, is a good thing, especially now.
But where does that love come from? Why should we love at all?
John Lewis can tell us the what, but it can’t offer the why or the where. Fortunately, the Bible, can:
1 John 4:19 says ‘We love because God first loved us.’
This is where love came from in the first place. This is why we love. The chain of love in the John Lewis advert missed out the source: it all starts with God.
We have a God who isn’t just loving, but is love.
He’s not a stingy God. He is incredibly generous. He gives only the best.
When God passed love down to us, it didn’t come in a heart-shaped Waitrose bag, or a heart-shaped umbrella, or a heart-emblazoned baseball cap for a hedgehog (I wasn’t totally convinced by that one…) – it came as his Son.
Jesus was born as a baby. He lived for 33 years in a broken, messy, confused world. He saw our sin and suffering. And then he showed the ultimate love for us, dying in our place, to restore our relationship with God.
That is the true Christmas story of love – God’s love to unlovely people, in the birth of Jesus.
As wonderful as human love can be, it’s not wonderful all the time. What about after Christmas? When the gifts and family time are over, when we’re tired and Zoomed-out and fed up that it’s still dark at 4pm? When our friends let us down, or we snap or gossip or envy? When we underplay, or downright deny our faith?
The thread of love that runs through the John Lewis advert is happy and uplifting and makes us feel good at a bleak time. But God’s love outlasts human love. God’s love came for when human love fails and makes mistakes and isn’t enough.
This Christmas, be part of the bigger chain of love. The chain that doesn’t just do or say the loving thing to tick the box. Be part of the chain that sincerely lives out God’s love with those around us, because we know how much we don’t deserve to be loved. And be part of the chain that shares God’s love with those that don’t know it yet.
I don’t write this so that Christians can feel self-righteous about their superior love! That would be a sad and ironic result. Christians are those who know they will never be lovely enough, or love enough, for God. And then want to tell the world about this.
Christian, you have been loved greatly, by a great God, despite your great sin. Be part of the chain of love that lasts beyond December 2020, and into eternity.