For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Today I will present the fourth and final message of this series of articles on Advent; it focuses on love. What begins with waiting, advances through preparation, and results in the experience of great joy is rooted in the love of God in Christ Jesus. God is love. God created love. And God loves us with a love that is difficult to describe.
How much does God love us? So much so that He sent His Son to die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that we could be with Him forever. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Notice that this took place “while we were still sinners.” God did not wait for us to get right with Him. He did not wait for us to get cleaned up. He did not wait for us to “get our act together” or even to promise that we would do so some time in the future. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Now, if that doesn’t light the fire of your faith as you approach Christmas day . . . your wood is wet!
So what are we to do with the knowledge of this love that is so wide and long and high and deep (Ephesians 3:18) while we are waiting and preparing for Christmas to arrive? We are to rest in it and respond to it. First, to rest in this love is to rest assured that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). When Jesus said “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20), He meant what He said. Nothing—not storms, not Satan, not even our own willful sin—will ever come between us and the love Jesus has for us.
Second, we respond to this love by sharing it with others. We love others because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). God loved us when we were incapable of loving Him—while we were still sinners, still actually enemies of His in our minds and alienated from Him because of our sinful thoughts and behaviors (Colossians 1:21). Our hearts were dead to him, blind to the truth of Scripture, and utterly incapable of loving Him. But because God poured His love out upon us when we were utterly undeserving and undesirous of it, we can now share that love with others. This is what is known as the greatest Commandment: loving God and loving others.
Perhaps an excerpt from the great 18th-century hymn, “And Can it Be?” by Charles Wesley, will cause some of that love to race through your heart.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
As I say so often from the pulpit, let’s go out and share this love with a lost and hurting world that desperately needs to know about the love and hope that is theirs in Christ. I hope you’ll take some time during this Advent Season to share the love of God with those around you. Invite a neighbor to your church’s Christmas Eve service. Bake someone some cookies. Write a note of encouragement to someone. Visit someone you haven’t seen in a long while. Remember, it is the primary way we are to be recognized as Christians by others: Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
The question that you and I need to ask of ourselves this Advent Season is this: Does everyone know that we are disciples of Jesus by our love? May this be the confession of our lives!
Have a blessed Christmas season, and please bless others as well.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!