Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Love in Christ Jesus

With Christmas Day just a couple of days away, it is so very easy for us to forget the “reason for the season”. While I was doing our weekly grocery shopping Saturday morning, I noticed that the number of people in the store was considerably larger than what I normally see. More carts and people mean some chaos and a lot of apologies for bumping carts and getting into the way of others. Each person had a look of determination to get through the list of items to purchase quickly. I cannot blame them for that. I, too, wanted to just get out of the store and enjoy a peaceful Saturday, especially one that has no rain or clouds in the forecast. I wanted nothing more than a day filled with hope, peace, joy and especially love. 

As I watched people scurrying around the store, I could not help but think about the message for today. I remember watching a television commercial with children telling the Christmas story and what it truly meant to them. It was very interesting to hear the wisdom of children reminding adults that they “get” Christmas and grasp its true meaning.

If I were to ask you to choose only one word to describe Christmas, what would it be? Would you say, “Gifts?”  Others might say, “Bills.” Still some would say other things. Very few would say that Christmas means “hope, peace, joy or love”. For me, Christmas means, in one word, “love”.

When you think about the Christmas story, the word, “love”, must not only be one of the words used but also must fill our hearts. John, in chapter 3, perfectly tells us of God’s love for us, “16 For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” In other translations of this verse, it starts, “For God so loved the world…” In any translation, we cannot fully understand or even comprehend the love of the Father.

In the Greek, the word that is used to express the love of the Father is “agape”. This love is completely foreign to us. It is a love that is so deep and profound that the world cannot understand it. It is a love that is unconditional and is undeserved. When you try to understand this love, your heart and mind can scarcely take it in. We have no real foundation for that sort of love for someone, because that love comes from the Father. 

John, in his first epistle, discusses love and our relationship with God. He writes in chapter 4, “7 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.

True love comes from God, because He truly is love. When we become Christians by accepting Christ Jesus as our personal Savior, Lord and Master of our lives, our relationship to God changes. We are no longer denizens of this sinful world. We are reborn to walk in newness of life and light not in darkness and the shadow of death. If we use the New International Version of 1 John 4, we see the beauty of God’s love in action, “7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

The love that we should have for one another does not come from this world. It is a gift of God, because we are born of God. Once we are born of God, we know God through His love for us. That love was expressed in the birth of His son to a virgin. That tiny little baby grew up to show us the way back to the Father. It is only through His son that we can have that loving relationship that we need in our lives.

Jesus, in the Gospel of John, tells Thomas and, by extension, us, “6 I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. 7 If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!

Christ Jesus not only shows us the way to the Father but he is also the way back to the Father. When we became disobedient in the garden, we began to move away from the Father. We lost our way. As humans, we tried to regain that way by creating laws to govern our relationship with the Lord. We began to reason that if we do this and not that, we can regain the love of the Father. Simply following laws is not enough. We must do more than just follow rules. We must believe in Jesus and follow his example in all that we do.

It is not rocket science and does not require a doctorate in theology to understand the meaning of the season and God’s very essence. That essence is love, unconditional and undeserved. We received His gift that is given out of His love for us and is everlasting.

Think about the gifts under the Christmas tree. In one study, children usually play with a toy for less than thirty minutes and then find it boring and move on to something else. Parents see this happening so very often. Children will start to play with the cardboard boxes that the gifts came in rather than playing with the toys themselves. In fact, one study pointed out that forty-one percent of all Christmas toys will be be broken within three months. 

In Jeremiah 31, God says, “3 I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.

Notice the words that are used by God. The words, everlasting and unfailing, describe His love for us. We do not need to lose interest in His love or feel that it will break and disappoint us. His love remains a constant in our lives and will not wane or wander from us. 

As you think about the reason for the season, spend some time today thinking about God’s love and how He gave the gift that is everlasting, unfailing and keeps on giving each day beyond just the one day called Christmas. It is only because of God’s great love for us that we are saved.

Paul, as a prisoner in Rome, writes to the church in Ephesus in chapter 2, “4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

Once again, we see the extent of God’s love for us. Even when we were dead because of our debt of sin, He gave us the gift of life through the birth, life, death and resurrection of His son, Christ Jesus.

I urge you to take time today and every day to thank God for His everlasting and unfailing love for you and remember the true meaning of Christmas. It is a time to love one another and, most importantly, to love our Father who is love. When we take that time to reflect and remember, we can rest assured that we can stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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