GOD’S GREAT LOVE…!
(Keep reading - I’ll complete this sentence below!)
This third week of Advent brings us to consider the matter of love which needs clarification in our current culture. Our society, like the ancient world, sees love at best as a reciprocal love, a mutual affinity for another, a sort of “I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you’ll-scratch-mine” kind of relationship. At worst, love was frequently depicted in the depths of sensuality and eroticism that tended to objectify the other person and end in brokenness, abuse, or worse.
It was the Christian church of the first century that brought new meaning to the word ‘love’. God had entered the picture through the birth of his Son, Jesus, and had demonstrated a kind of love foreign to His world in and around ancient Palestine. It was a love that kept on giving and seeking the best well-being of its recipient regardless of that recipient’s response. It was a love that went all the way to the cross for the sake of the other person(s) as Romans 5:8 states: “God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.
In that single act on Calvary, LOVE was elevated to an entirely new plateau of meaning that was played out over and over in the lives of Christ’s followers from the first century and up to this very day. “We love because He first loved us”. Unless one has experienced that new kind of God-like love that brings forgiveness and cleansing, they are not able to show that kind of love to others. Perhaps that is one explanation for the negativity and degradation that revolves around us today sometimes even in the name of love.
But there are many great benefits to this newly-defined LOVE that God places within every follower. One of our favorite carols sung during this season was written by Phillips Brooks and contains this line: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”. Those who are ardent Christ-followers are aware of the impact of these lines because, for them, the perception of Christmas is far more than just giving and receiving and eating and spending. In Christ Jesus we discover not only the birth of hope but also the death of fear as the Apostle John writes: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”
God moved from heaven to earth to fulfill his promise to redeem the world and gather unto himself a chosen people; a people who have experienced God’s great love in Christ Jesus and are willing to move heaven and earth to pass that same love on to others. As you gather with family and friends this season and as you give thought to the child who was born and laid in a manger, please be aware that beyond the sentimentalism of this simple nativity, you can find in this Christ a grace that can bring about the death of your fears and at the same time give birth to new hopes and aspirations.
Having said this much, I’ll finish my initial thought: GOD’S GREAT LOVE… BRINGS THE BIRTH OF HOPE AND THE DEATH OF FEAR!
That, my friend, is what makes for a really MERRY CHRISTMAS!