Advent 2 - Love

life of jesus Dec 23, 2023
 

Welcome to Advent 2024, as we focus on Jesus, the Reason for the Season.

Yesterday was Hope. Today, it's Love

I remember falling in love.

Elsie and I were young - still in high school - and we lived about a hundred miles apart. We saw each other as often as possible (once or twice a month) and made weekly long-distance phone calls on Sunday nights, late in the evening when the rates went down.

I was willing to make any sacrifice necessary to spend time with her, but the options weren't there in those days. Eventually, I bought my own car, started making the drive whenever possible, and we rearranged our plans to get married when I graduated from Teachers' College.

Everything in our lives was reoriented to take one another into consideration. The result was that 4 years after we met, we were married, and so far it's lasted 51+ years. Not bad!

No Easy Button

But it hasn't always been easy. I hate to admit it, but I'm not always the easiest person to be around. No, I'm not giving details, but let's say Elsie and I both had a lot of growing up to do, and someday, we hope to be finished. Growing up, that is.

I remember a conversation with our oldest son when he had been married for about 6 months, when I asked him what he had learned most from watching our marriage. He didn't hesitate, and said, "Failure is not an option."

Unconditional love is an incredible concept.

To know that someone loves you unconditionally, and that you love someone the same way.

But here's the thing: love means that you go first. That's what God did.

John 3:16

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

God loved. And because He loved, He gave. And he didn't just give sunshine and rain, sons and daughters, blessings like grace and mercy. He gave His Son.

And God said, "Do you want to have eternal life? Love me back. Believe in my Son - put your trust in Him - love Him, and eternal life shall be yours."

All because of love.

In His Image

When God brought the world into existence, He said, "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26), and he made humanity into a relational being, with the capacity to love and to be loved. We were made to live in relationship, and the fact is that relationships eventually come to an end without love. They just don't survive.

You know what that looks like.

In Greek, there are numerous words which we translate as "love." One is "eros," or passionate, erotic love. Another is "philia," or brotherly love - like the city of Philadelphia. There's "storge," which is love within a family.

Agape

And there is "agape." Some have translated agape as "love for everyone" or "universal love," but I believe those definitions completely miss the point. Agape is not about having warm feelings for everyone or the world and everyone in it. Agape is a sacrificial love which is willing to give up its own life for the sake of others.

Agape is the love that a soldier has when in battle at the front lines, and sacrifices his life for the sake of his fellow soldiers, to provide freedom for his wife who is back at home, and for the country that he serves.

Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13). And he should know - that's exactly what he did. That is the example Jesus set.

Love Each Other As I Have Loved You

So when Jesus also says, "Love each other as I have loved you," (15:12), that's what he's talking about. Love as he loves. Be willing to give it all up (Phil. 2:5-8) even if it means paying the ultimate price.

So the love that God showed us wasn't conditional or dependent on us loving him back or us cleaning up our lives so he would love us - we can't get that clean! That's the example we celebrate at Christmas - while we were still sinners, Jesus came (Rom. 5:8) and lived and died for us.

The Love Chapter

When we recognize what he did for us, how can we not do the same, for him and for others?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8)

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