The Love of Advent

There is no word in the English language that is more misused and abused than the word “love.” People say that they love God, and in the next breath, they say that they love their car. People say that they love their spouse, and in the next breath, they say they love their favorite pair of blue jeans. The word “love” is never used so flippantly in the Bible.
Love is not common. Love is holy. Love is just. Love is pure and selfless. Moreover, love is a person… a person who came into the world on that first Christmas night.
1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” On that first Christmas all that is good, and holy, and just, and pure was manifested in that baby boy that was born in a feed trough in Bethlehem. He was God in the flesh, and since God is love, we can also say that He was love wrapped in human flesh.
Why did He come into the world? The text says He was sent to the world that “we might live through Him.” Love was manifested among us so that we might live in love. Before His coming and before our receiving Him, we could not love. We did not know what love was. More accurately, we did not know who love was. All we had to live in was our passions and desires, but on the other side of His coming, we came to know love. We were transformed by love. And we were made to live in love.
We celebrate Christmas because through His birth into our world, we learned what love was. 1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Propitiation is a big scary word, but it is also a big beautiful word. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word which means “cleansing.” This is love, that He sent His Son to be the cleansing for our sins. He came and sacrificed Himself to rid us of guilt and iniquity.
Sinful people attempt to define love by what sinful people do. In our culture, to love someone is to not be hateful to them… to not want to hurt them. To love God is to be a generally good person and not cuss too much, go to church when you can, and give what you can spare. But love cannot be defined by what we do. It must be defined by what God has done.
Love is self-sacrificing. Love is cleansing. Love is transforming. Love is humbling. Love is the acceptance of pain and suffering on behalf of the one who is loved.
This sacrificial and transforming love was commissioned by God at the Bethlehem manger. 1 John 4:11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Remember the who reason why love was made manifest to us in the person and work of Jesus was so that we might live through Him. He loved us so that we, by His love, might also love others.
If you have received the gift of God’s love and been transformed by its power, then it logically follows that you ought to love your neighbor. You ought to love them especially if they will not love you in return because God loved you when you could not love Him in return. You ought to love them especially if they have nothing to give because true love is sacrificial and expects nothing in return. You ought to love not just in words but in deeds because God’s love is always backed up by action. Love that God has shown us should be the motive of all our generosity, the aim of every gift we give and the theme of every song we sing.

Love is not an abstract rhetorical concept. It is not a subject confined to poets and philosophers. In the Christmas story, we see sanctified love manifested, defined, and commissioned. Love is a person… a person who on that first Christmas came to us, transformed us, and gave us life. It is for love that we ought to be most thankful this Christmas.