I adore Christmas music, classic old movies, gift giving, and a chill in the air. But what I really enjoy during the month of December is rehearsing, over and over, the story of the first coming of Jesus. That story tells you and me just how much we are loved by God the Father, and Jesus the Son.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 ESV)
I knew of a young man and woman who decided to go ahead and marry even though one of them was terminally ill. They knew the pain that waited for them, but were willing to pay that price. Even if it was only for a short time, they wanted more than anything to share their lives.
As God gathered the first lump of clay and began to shape Adam, God knew how it would turn out, but did it anyway. He ignored the knowledge that His creation would turn their backs on Him for their own selfish satisfaction.
You are no biological accident. The Word knew you and loved you before the first revolution of the earth around the sun. God knew whether you would love Him or leave Him and He loves you either way.
Because God is love, He could never be content as a disengaged, distant Creator…
2. Jesus loves you so much that he lives with you
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 ESV)
"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23 ESV)
God has always been Immanuel. It began in the Garden of Eden. Although the Fall ruined the intimate connection Adam and Eve one enjoyed, God continued to be with the people He created. The Tabernacle, then the Temple, served as a limited expression of Immanuel. But it wasn’t enough. God longed to be with His people.
When Jesus entered the human race, He brought Immanuel near to His people. Omnipresence became immanence. The Word stepped outside the confines of the Temple, put on human flesh and pitched his tent next to ours.
God still loves the world so much that he continues to be present through the Church. A few years ago, I met a young missionary family who live in a sensitive country among people who are sworn enemies of the United States. They are loving those people on behalf of Christ.
Long before you received Christ, He was near you. The Spirit relentlessly walked by your side. Immanuel was there through the care of a godly mother or a Christian neighbor.
If you do not know Jesus, He is with you now, and always has been.
But we have just begun to explore the magnitude of Jesus’ love for you and me…
3. Jesus loves you so much that he redeemed you
"Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13 ESV)
Ironically, I am warmed as I reflect on the manger. I have been influenced by the images that pervade our celebration of Christmas. Through the centuries, thousands of artists have crafted their imaginations of the Nativity. They almost always come across as cozy—Mary, Joseph, and Jesus huddled together and surrounded by a subtle glow.
I am a native Midwesterner. Inevitably, the local live Nativity seems to occur on the coldest night of the season. The amateur actors brace themselves against sub-freezing, or even sub-zero temperatures. They experience firsthand the discomfort that Mary and her newborn son endured in Bethlehem.
As harsh as Jesus’ first night on Earth proves to be, it gets worse. Much worse. The life that began in the safety of Mary’s womb will come to a violent end on a cross outside of Jerusalem. The Word becomes Immanuel, and then the Lamb slain for the sin of the world. Jesus would pay the price for every sin ever committed in all of history.
I must confess, that kind of love exists beyond my ability to conceive—it has always been the Son’s mission to die for my sin. “Such love, such wondrous love!” The tiny little hands of baby Jesus are destined to the penetration of a Roman’s spike, the baby-soft torso will be pierced by the point of a soldier’s spear.
But Jesus loves you even more than that…
4. Jesus loves you so much that he lives in you
…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love… (Ephesians 3:17 ESV)
Many legends and false religions contain stories of sacrificed heroes. The uniqueness of Christianity as that the Hero has risen from the dead! God, by the Spirit infused the body of Jesus with Divine life and brought him out of the grave.
Resurrected, Jesus loved you too much to stay here, limited by the flesh he continues to wear. So, He returned to the Father, so God the Spirit could come to live inside each one of us. Unlike other religions, the God of Christianity refuses to live apart from humans, or even to control them through possession. Instead, God dwells gracefully and peacefully within those who believe.
One measurement of Jesus’ love for you remains…
5. Jesus loves you so much that he is returning for you
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3 ESV)
The Bible describes of the relationship between Jesus and the Church as resembling that of a husband and wife. When Jesus, the Groom, returned to heaven, it was to begin the next phase of his love-mission—to prepare your place in the Father’s house.
Our Christmas celebrations are incomplete if we neglect the Blessed Hope. Celebrating Advent reminds us that Jesus came, but Jesus is also coming again. The baby, who arrived in a Bethlehem stable, will return as the Lord of all. And we will see him face to face. Jesus is coming for you!