The noted German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once said, "The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come."
As we approach the blessed day of Jesus' birth, the celebration of Advent truly does offer for each of us a time to reflect and release how "poor and imperfect" we really are. When you think about how disobedient we have been when it comes to our relationship with the Father, we have surely brought trouble to our souls. We are powerless to forgive our own sins and cannot, by our own mouth, declare ourselves forgiven of all sin. It took an act of love that we cannot possibly understand to give us the special and wonderful gift of salvation.
That love shown to us by our Heavenly Father is totally alien to us. We cannot truly comprehend the sheer magnitude of that love. There is no possible way for us to express or experience it using our human frame of reference. This love, freely given to us, is indeed a precious gift of untold value.
John, in chapter three of his gospel, writes, “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. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
In just a few sentences, John easily and quite eloquently crystalizes God’s love for us and His desire to give us salvation. He didn’t send His son to judge us. We had already been judged and found guilty of being disobedient. Our very acts of disobeying God are the testament to our wickedness. God, not wanting to see His creation suffer utter damnation, gave us the way back to Him.
When we accept Jesus and allow him to come into our hearts, we are transformed and made anew. We have been justified by his blood. His blood was spilt for us to cover our sins. His resurrection gave us the gift of immortality. His words gave us the way and his life provided us with the example of how to live our lives. All of this could only be possible by love
A few may be thinking right now about Christmas and the birth of Jesus and that is all that most want to think about. But, you cannot just concentrate on celebrating Jesus’ birth. You must also consider the reason why he came to live among us. You must also consider the love it took to do what God did for each of us.
Depending on your translation, the word, “love”, is mentioned between 100 to 300 times in the Bible. In Greek, there are three different words used to refer to love. The highest form of love, “agape”, is the transcendent love. This love is the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. It is a love that knows no boundary and is boundless. It is given freely without conditions.
Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, writes, “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith.”
Agape love comes from a pure heart that has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and made right in the eyes of the Lord. As we grow spiritually, we begin to show that same sort of love to God. We give Him our love freely with no reservation. It is unconditional and pure. This love is the foundation of having a clear conscience and a strong genuine faith.
In his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul, in chapter thirteen, when describing agape love, writes, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
As I reflect on Paul’s description of love and think about God’s love for us, one thing jumps out at me. Paul said that love never gives up. God could have easily given up on us and wiped us away with a simple wave of His mighty right hand. But, He didn’t. He provided for us a path to salvation and eternal life in heaven with Him. All of this came through His son, Jesus.
The American Baptist evangelical Christian pastor and author, Rick Warren, wrote, “Never procrastinate in showing love. Don't delay. Don't put it off. Do it now.”
During this very special time of the year, do more than just say you love others. Show them. Let them know that you truly care. If there is one thing I have learned in all my years, love isn’t flashy or big. Love comes in a whisper or a small gesture. To you, it may seem very small and insignificant, but, to others, that one act of love is the best gift.
Just the other day, I bought lunch for members of my team at work. It was a simple gesture of kindness, but you would have thought that I had prepared a grand feast for them. It was just sandwiches, but to them, it was an act of kindness. I wanted to thank them for all of their hard work and their dedication. Each put in long hours in helping others.
As we sat down to eat, the mood was lighter and festive. People were laughing and enjoying the lunch that I had provided them. It was fun and it didn’t cost a lot, but even the smallest gesture of kindness can do so much for others.
Have you noticed during the Christmas holidays that people tend to be more appreciative and smile more? Their spirits are lighter and they go out of their way to help others. Christmas truly brings out the best in all of us. Our goal is to continue to show that love throughout the entire year and beyond. If we all lived as Jesus taught us, the world would definitely be a better place.
So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, I ask you to think about this wonderful gift of love and reflect on its meaning. As you reflect on it, put love into action. Remember the words of Rick Warren and don’t delay or put it off. Do it now and every day.
Jesus said it best in chapter thirteen of John’s Gospel, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
If we all just did that one thing of loving one another as Jesus loved his disciples, the world would be a better place and we would be better for it. When we show love to others, we get it back many times over. Love, agape love, comes without strings or conditions. It is pure and definitely comes from the heart. When we do that and express our love for the Father, we can, most assuredly, stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.