Love is a wonderful thing. The word itself probably gets tossed around too much and at the same time, not enough. To be truly loved, for who you are, is one of the most amazing and wonderful feelings a person can experience. And during the Christmas season each year people seem to be just a little more loving. Not always, but more often than not, people seem to be more willing to extend love, care, and compassion during the holidays.
What is it about the Christmas season that draws this out of us?
Is it possible that at the very heart of Christmas lies the loving generous heart of the Father. The eternal God – creator of everything – who sent His one and only son as a gift to all of us. God the Father who knew that the very people He created, whom He loved, would be the same people who crucified His Son on a cross.
And He sent His Son, the gift of love and mercy, anyway.
What is it about giving gifts to others and being generous with those we love that brings the best out in us? Why does it feel so much better – more fulfilling – to be on the giving end of things rather than receiving?
I know I won’t be able to answer all these questions in one teaching. But I do know at the very heart of it all is the love of the Father, evident in the life and death of His Son.
“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (ESV)
2 Corinthians 9:15
God is Love
As we dive into love today I want to take a brief moment to remember all the things we’ve talked about up to this point and how they’re all intimately connected to and a direct result of the life and sacrifice of Jesus.
- We have eternal hope in the promises of God made alive in Christ.
- We have unshakable peace in Christ who will return for His church.
- We have the gift of deep, abiding, and inexpressible joy through our love for and understanding of Christ.
And at the end of the day, we can know what pure – unfiltered – unconditional love looks like because of the example Christ set for us.
1 John 4:7-9
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.
At His core, God is love. Every action God takes part in is motivated by love. John tells us the very reason God came to earth in the form of Jesus is because of His great love for us. (this is one of my favorite scriptures btw)
The reason that we, as humans, can even define love is because it has been displayed for us by God himself. Love is so much more than hallmark movies, hashtags, facebook challenges and everything else we’ve co-opted it to be.
Love is deeply personal, hard to fully define, and yet at the same time…we fully understand what we’re looking at when we see it.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…” (NKJV)
Love is the New Commandment
You may already be thinking to yourself, “This love stuff sounds pretty good! But, what should I do about it?” And that is a great question 🙂
Throughout the gospels we see the disciples always had a lot of questions for Jesus. More often than not, the questions revolved around the things they should or shouldn’t be doing. Things like marriage, prayer, fasting, tithing, and the sabbath are just a few of the topics that come to mind. Interestingly, in the gospel of John, Jesus gives the disciples a new rule to follow. Listen to what He says….
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”(NLT)
And how did Jesus show His love for the disciples? How did He show His love for you and I? Thankfully, we know the answer…
1 John 3:16
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. (NLT)
Easy enough then – loving others simply requires that we lay our lives down for them. We trade what we want and need for what they want and need. We put others before ourselves, in place of ourselves, at the expense of ourselves.
It’s so cut and dry, so simple. Why doesn’t everyone love like Jesus?
Love is a Choice
There is a dangerous teaching floating around that love is something you stumble into and out of. But as many of you know from your own experience, love is more often than not, a very real choice you make every day in your relationships.
Aren’t we so grateful that God the Father chose to love all of us through His son, Jesus. And aren’t we unbelievably thankful that Jesus chose to humble himself, taking on the role of a servant, dying on a cross for you and I. If not for the loving sacrifice of the Father and the Son, where would we be today?
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.
Do you think it was easy for God to love a world that by and large didn’t love Him in return? Was it easy for Jesus to love the very people that hung Him on a cross and brutally killed Him?
Is it always easy to love…
Obviously, the answer is no. It’s not easy – It’s not something you just stumble into. It takes genuine-focused effort to love others. And you know what, it’s what Jesus asked us to do.
We love because He first loved us.
Jesus set the example, and He asked us to follow His lead.
For as much as we all love John 3:16, it’s worth noting just how powerful the next verse is, especially when talking about the love of God.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (NKJV)
God did not send Jesus to bring condemnation. He sent Jesus to bring redemption, reconciliation, and renewal.
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
One of the greatest responsibilities we have is to share this eternally impactful good news – the love of Jesus – with others.
The Best Christmas Ever is About Giving and Receiving Love
As we draw near to Christmas can I ask you today, what has God redeemed (paid in full) in your life?
Where have you seen the fullness of Christ…hope, peace, joy, and love this year?
Maybe there are so many things running through your mind right now, and if so, praise God. But maybe you’re straining to see redemption in your life. Maybe you’d say it’s been a long time since you truly felt loved.
The first Christmas was and is so special because it is a moment in time we can all point to and see God’s love for mankind in action.
This Christmas could also be a special one. This could be the moment that you decide to put your love for others into action. This could be the moment that you decide to follow the lead of Christ, to love others by giving your life – energy – time – and resources for them.
This could be the first time you accept God’s love.
This could be the first time you share God’s love.
The redemptive love of Christ is not something to keep to ourselves – it’s something to share with as many people as we possibly can, for as long as we can.