One of my favorite Christmas movies is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, which tells the story of a male singing Army duo that meets its female counterpart at a snowless Vermont inn and tries to put on a Christmas show there. I’ve seen the stage version twice, which adds a fun Irving Berlin song from 1947 called “Love and the Weather.” While a catchy number, it relates love to the weather, calling it “unpredictable, irresponsible, unbelievable, unreliable.”
Love and the weather, birds of a feather
Can’t be depended upon
One day it’s sunny, next day the sunshine has gone.
Perhaps during my years of dating and occasional heartbreak, I might have agreed with these lyrics, but as I’ve grown in my love for Sarah, love has become one of the most dependable things in my life. Some have called love the world’s most powerful and abundant resource.
I’m not sure what was going on in Irving Berlin’s life when he was writing this song, but he only got it half right. Weather is certainly unreliable and unpredictable. As I write this, it’s pleasant and sunny outside. Two days ago we got a heavy snow. Relationships can also be unpredictable. Human emotions are uncertain and subject to irrationality (and the influence of weather). But love? Love is what undergirds all that unpredictability.
Let me give you a fitting example of the surety of love. It’s fitting because it involves the unpredictability of the weather. For the last two years, Sarah and I have spent a portion of the Christmas holidays with her family in Arizona. The nice thing about traveling to Arizona is the perfect weather. No snow and no brutal heat. The bad thing about traveling during the Christmas season is that snowstorms can mess with travel no matter where you’re going. Last year, Sarah and I feared we wouldn’t be able to fly back home because a New Year’s storm cancelled our flight. Sarah had a critical work commitment she couldn’t miss two days away.
So what does love do? Love spends time trying to reschedule the flight.
The night before our flight, I spent a few hours on the phone trying to reach the airline and find an alternate route home. Amazingly, we were able to book a flight to a city outside of Boston and have my parents pick us up. Sarah made it for her work commitment. This is the power of love at work. My human emotions and weaknesses could have caused me to not even try to rebook the flight, but when we tap into the gift of enduring love, we do things for the beloved that we might not do without it.
Love’s dependability is there even amidst the rashness of human emotion and weakness. The love that flows between Sarah and me grounds us when arguments occur. It grounds us in times of uncertainty and times of sorrow. While it may be hard to believe it in the moment when Sarah gets upset at me, I can be assured of her love.
With the overuse of the word “love” in our culture, it’s easy to see it as something that wavers and is caught up with betrayal and emotion. The emotions one may feel while in love are just emotions. Emotions, while sometimes indicative of love, are not love. In a homily earlier this year, Pope Francis spoke about the kind of love illustrated in the First Letter of John. “You see that the love John speaks of is not the love of soap operas! No, it is something else,” he said. “Christian love has a particular quality: concreteness.” The pope is referring to concrete actions like saying sorry, cooking a meal for someone, rebooking a flight, and listening to the sorrows of your beloved. What’s concrete is certainly not wavering and “unbelievable,” as the Irving Berlin song lyrics claim.
“One day it’s sunny, next day the sunshine has gone,” the lyrics say.
Sarah and I have plenty of sunny days and plenty of cloudy ones — even stormy sometimes. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that our love comes and goes. What always endures and remains when the storm is over is love. I can depend on this. So can Sarah. Love determines our best response in the unpredictable weather of relationships. It drives us to concrete actions, as Pope Francis talks about, and it becomes a reliable and dependable friend who never leaves, even when the weather is crappy.