There’s a simple way to go through December in search of more connection with God. It’s called Advent, and this is Article #4 of our four-week series. You can find the first week on hope here, the second week on peace here, and the third week on joy here.
So many made-for-Netflix holiday movies are about the same thing: being in love. I watched a movie called ‘Holi-Date’ a couple of weeks ago (take this as more of a confession than a recommendation) and realized mid-glass-of-wine that we somehow associate Christmas with the warm fuzzies of romance. But Jesus came with a love that was much better than that. This last week of Advent, let’s try to set aside what we’ve learned about love from Netflix and consider a completely different kind.
Start by doing this:
- Light four candles: one for hope, one for peace, one for joy, and now the last for love.
- Take a deep breath.
- Consider this question in silence for 30 seconds:
Who made you feel loved this year, and how did they do it?
I’m willing to guess the last time you felt loved, it didn’t have anything to do with Netflix-like-romance. The world has taught us wrongly about what love looks like in action. We’ve been taught that love lights candles and wears lingerie. But I’m guessing your example was probably closer to something someone did that made you feel seen, known. Someone who loves well shows you that you are valued even when it costs them something to do it.
My husband is really good at this. He sees the little daily things I can’t do for myself (or just stuff that causes me tons of difficulty), and he picks exactly those things to do for me. He makes coffee every single morning (mine is awful). He takes two of our kids to school every single day, even though it cuts off a little chunk of his workday. These are things that cost him time and bother, and he does them anyway. I feel seen and known for my crappy coffee-making skills. I feel valued by his sacrifice for my time.
The whole Christmas story happened at a personal cost to God that went far beyond what you or I have ever done for someone else. God signed himself up for a painful sacrifice, and he did it waaaaaaaay before Jesus was actually born. He knew we were in trouble and separated from the eternal life of God because of our sin. And He knew we couldn’t help ourselves. The fix was going to be painful for God, and He chose it anyway. We can be sure He knew exactly what he was choosing because of scriptures like this written about the Messiah to come over 700 years before Jesus was born.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds, we are healed.
God planned the first Christmas at the very foundations of the world. He knew it would cost him terribly, but he had a much bigger objective than Himself. His objective was to make sure you and I understood that we are seen, known, and wanted in the family of God.
God made the first move to say, “I love you.” He saw what we needed, and he did it even though it hurt him. This is the very definition of love—valuing another so much that we are willing to cost ourselves something to communicate that value.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10
I know when someone from a church says, “God loves you,” you might have to fight hard not to roll your eyes. If you don’t feel loving feelings to or from God this Christmas, I think that’s OK. Instead of thinking of love as an emotional experience, I challenge you this week to see the story of Christmas in a new light.
Read it this year as a comment on your deep value to God.
He was willing to watch his Son be born to suffer and die to get his point across to you. He knows what you need most, and it was a Savior you couldn’t provide for yourself. As a matter of fact, that was announced by the angel on the very night of his birth:
“Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11
God willingly sent Jesus that first Christmas, and it hurt him to do it. It was the greatest act of love our world has ever seen. And it was for you.
This week, let’s pray a prayer straight from Ephesians 3. It’s a prayer asking that we’d really be able to understand and receive the unbelievable love of the God of Christmas:
Help me to become rooted and established in your love. Please give me the power, together with all your people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all your fullness.