Love Came Down
Written by Toni Anderson
“Love Came Down at Christmas” is a phrase that I often think of during the Advent season. Many of us might know the phrase from the popular Christmas song with the same title. However, the words to that song actually originate from a poem written by Christina Rossetti in the 19th century. I love this poem and the reminder that the love of God is a gift that we’re given at Christmas. The poem says,
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine,
Worship we our Jesus.
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all me,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
Rossetti was a woman who was well-acquainted with hardship and strife. She was born in 1830 to a very artistic family and became deeply involved in the Church of England from a young age. Rossetti struggled throughout her life, facing depression and crises of faith in her later teen years and throughout her 20s. She almost married three different times, but didn’t follow through with it because none of the men shared her deep faith. Later in her life, she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disease, and eventually with breast cancer as well, which led to her death in 1894 at the age of 64.
I don’t know about every detail of her internal life or relationship with God, but it seems to me that Christina Rossetti turned to Christ in each challenging moment of her life. By all accounts, her faith was what sustained her through every affliction. Not in an overly simple way, just relying on sentimentality, but in a deep wrestling that is reflected in her poetry. I imagine that some seasons the love of God was so tangible to her and other seasons, it felt more fleeting.
As I reflect on the love of God for us during the Advent season, it’s a comfort to me that God’s consistent love is always present, even if I can’t always feel it or even when circumstances are hard. In her poem, Rossetti says that God’s love is a token, a tangible representation of a fact. Love is what we celebrate at Christmas, as Jesus’ birth is the tangible representation of the fact that God loves his children. Christina Rossetti’s poetry reminds us of the gift of love incarnate that Jesus is to us. I hope this is a season for each of us where God’s love is made tangible and real in our everyday lives.