1 John 4:10 (NKJV) 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
This week we have been looking at three things the world tries to incorporate into the “Holiday Celebration” while minimizing the celebration of the birth of Christ. The first is joy. While gifts and parties give both pleasure and happiness, joy is something far deeper. The joy spoken of by the angels in their announcement to the shepherds has nothing to do with worldly happiness. It is the inward, abiding sense of wellbeing that comes from knowing relationship with the heavenly Father. The joy of Christmas is the joy of knowing that the birth of this baby was the beginning of the process that made that relationship possible.
The second is peace. The world concentrates on the holidays as a time when we practice peace between groups in the world. However, the peace of Christmas is the peace God made available to man through the birth and eventual resurrection of Jesus. There was a gulf between God and man because of sin. The birth of Jesus is the entry of the God of the universe into our world to put an end to the war between God and man making it possible for peace between them.
The final element that we hear about during the holidays is love. We know that love of family is an important factor in our celebrations. This is as season where the expression of the love we have for our friends is foremost in our thinking. Love is the motivation for the giving of gifts. All of these things are worthy parts of the Christmas season. However, they are only reflections of the real love of Christmas.
It is almost cliché to say that the gift of the babe in the manger is one of the ultimate expressions of the love of God yet it must be said. God created man as his family. Man rebelled against God resulting in a spiritual union between God’s children and the God of this world, Satan.
Man was the one who rebelled. God had given clear instructions to man about what was acceptable and what was not acceptable. God had provided all man could ever need. Man lived in a paradise provided by his Father. Nevertheless, man chose to follow the woman into sin. The bible says the woman was deceived but Adam was not. (1 Timothy 2:14) He sinned by willful choice. God had no obligation to save him. He had effectively become an enemy to God.
Romans 5:8-10 (NKJV) 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
Christmas love is not about love of family. It is not about brotherly love or romantic love. It is the love of God that chose to reach into our sinful condition that he might buy back his children.
It is hard to imagine the price paid by Almighty God when he was born in that manger. Philippians 2 tells us that God laid aside his limitlessness to take on the form of man. The creator of the universe became a baby. He was just as helpless and physically vulnerable as any baby ever born.
By design, he was born into the humblest of circumstances. He was not raised in privilege but experienced every temptation and hardship that man can face. (Hebrews 4:15) What must it have been like for the holy God to live in the midst of the sin and depravation into which humanity had fallen?
I love today’s scripture. Many times we teach on the need to love God. I believe that is true. We do need to cultivate and express our love for God. Yet this verse tells us the key to that love. It is not in our repentance. It is not in our works. It is not in anything we can work up in our emotions. Our love for God does not originate with us. Our love for God is a response to his love for us.
In this verse, there are two ways in which that love is expressed. The second is the one we usually focus upon. God sent Jesus to be the payment for our sins. He died for us. In truth, this is the love of Jesus for us. I believe he made a choice to die for us in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked the Father to let that bitter cup pass from him. He did not want to do it. In the midst of his torment he uttered those powerful words, “Not my will but your will be done!” He chose to die for us. There is no greater expression of love than that. (John 15:13)
The first statement in this verse is often overlooked. God the Father sent his son. That was the expression of the Father’s love for you and me. I have six children. I would far rather experience hardship than have them experience hardship. I would sacrifice myself for my children with little thought. That is what it means to be a father.
A much more difficult choice is to sacrifice one child for many children. Jesus was the only begotten of the Father. He was the only son who walked in true love and fellowship with the Father. Even those with the greatest revelation of who God is did not understand him. They saw him as the hard and harsh giver of the Law of Moses who would gladly punish the smallest transgression. That is not the nature of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Jesus knew the Father for who he really was. Jesus spent three and one half years trying to show him to the world, yet they did not see him. Jesus was the only one who walked as a true son of God in the way God wanted for Adam. He was the last Adam. (1 Cor. 15:45)
The love of Christmas is the love of the Father God for all his children. It is the love which would sacrifice his only true son so that he might win many sons. He had no guarantee that anyone would accept what he was offering. He gave Jesus to the world anyway.
As we approach the day when we celebrate the fact that Jesus was born in the world, remember the love of the Father for you. Let that love wash over you and respond to that love. No one has given more for you. If you are a parent, think about sacrificing your child for others who do not deserve the sacrifice. That is the love of Christmas.
In this is love. God the Father gave his son for us. Can I do anything less than give him my life?