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“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”  – Prime Minister of England (played by Hugh Grant), Love Actually (2003)

And so begins one of the most popular Christmas films of all time.

It is remarkable that in a world that is mostly confused about love, there still remains a predominantly optimistic view toward it. We observe this in film, art and literature the world over, and let’s not forget it in music either. As an avid listener of music, I cannot help but notice our world’s preoccupation with giving and receiving love…

In the 1950s people were singing “I can’t stop loving you, I’ve made up my mind” – an obvious decision of commitment there. In the 60s everybody knew that “Money can’t buy me love”. The 70s brought a change: people were singing, “Love is in the air, everywhere you look around”, while others were asking “How deep is your love? I really mean to learn!”. Then in the 80s we knew that “Love is a battlefield” and so we were asking, “What’s love got to do with it?”. Then in the 90s we were hearing that love is “The sweetest thing” but confusingly that “I never really loved you anyway!”. The 2000s left us begging the question “Where is the love?”, and so “I’m not gonna write you a love song”. Which brings us to the present day with Ed Sheeran cheekily reminding listeners that it’s normal to be “In love with the shape of you”. Heaven forbid we could actually love a person despite their shape!

It’s any wonder we live in a world that is confused about love.

But for all the confusion about love and its many expressions, there still exists a remarkable force of love in the world. Christians believe that God is the expert on love, in fact, that God is love. And when we align our understanding of love with this, the confusion somewhat subsides.

The birth of the Christ Child brings with it a plethora of emotion and meaning. That God would love the world enough to be physically present within it, despite being rejected by it, tells us something about God’s view of love and how it ought to be outworked.

Jesus also had much to say on the subject of love.

‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’ (John 15:13)

Perhaps I am missing something, but at first glance his view of love appears to be very straightforward. But there lies our problem… The confusion about love is that it is often defined through the grid of personal gain and satisfaction. However, Jesus defines love through personal sacrifice and meeting the needs of the other. There is no greater expression of love than personal sacrifice.

As we enter the season of advent, anticipating God’s great gift to us and celebrating Christ’s arrival, we are reminded of the kind of love that bore that gift.

It was a love that sought to serve the other, not the self.

It was an active love, characterised by sacrifice and personal cost.

It was a love that fought for humanity, it’s freedom and fullness of life.

Greater love has no one than this.

I am humbled by students, staff and supporters who live this high calling of love. 2019 has been a remarkable year for Mustard in many ways. But for all that has been achieved, what I celebrate most is the deep and abiding love of God expressed through those who would dare to take Jesus at his word. Indeed “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and schools and students across Australia are better off because of this perpetuating love. It is because of God’s gift to us and people like you that I am inclined to agree with Hugh Grant’s character when he says, “If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”

Thank you for another incredible year of sacrifice and service as we partner to make God’s love known to all. I pray that you will seek and find the transforming love of God this Christmas.

God bless,

ABOVE: Our Student Movement throughout 2019

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