What is the bottom line of Christmas? Christmas is a declaration and celebration of God’s love. For God so loved the world that He gave! The love we’re talking about is agape love, God’s love. What does the Bible reveal about God’s love?
First, it’s supernatural love. When John declares, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us . . .” (I John 3:1), he used the word agape. Agape love is the highest form of love. This love is primarily an act of the will, meaning this love chooses to do what is best for the other person.
Norman Wright defines agape love as an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person. (Wright, Premarital Counseling, Moody Press, 1977, 86). This love doesn’t come naturally for us fallen creatures because we’re selfish and sinful by nature, but this love, John tells us, is God’s nature (see I John 4:8b).
Second, it’s sacrificial love. This love sacrifices itself for others. What did Jesus say in John 15:13? “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
Alabama pastor Gary Fenton shared about Leonard, a good man who seemed unnecessarily stern to his two sons. He loved his wife and children, but his sons did not always feel loved. Leonard was neither diplomatic nor tactful, and his rules seemed unfair.
One December was particularly difficult for Leonard and his family. Living in the Midwest, an early winter snowstorm kept Leonard from working at his hourly construction job. As Christmas approached, Leonard hoped he would be able to work a few days before the holiday. But a second snowstorm on December 18 postponed outdoor construction work until the first of the year. Unable to work, Leonard was home with his sons while his wife worked part time at a small laundry.
Two days before Christmas, Leonard uncharacteristically asked his younger son if he would like to put on his snow boots and go for a walk. Leonard’s youngest was excited, but also suspicious. A walk with his father usually turned into work. As they left the house, the son asked, “Where are we going?” Throwing a soft snowball at the young boy, Leonard smiled and said, “You will see.”
Leonard playfully threw more snowballs, and his youngest son did as well. It was unusual for the father to throw snowballs. In his world snow was shoveled, not thrown. The father-son walk ended at a five-and dime store.
Once inside, Leonard opened his wallet and said, “This Christmas will be different for our family. I have not been able to work, and your mother is working part time. This is all the money I have. Let’s purchase three gifts: one for your mother, one for your brother and one for you.”
The boy realized his father was not exaggerating about this being all the money he had. They quickly picked gifts for his mother and brother, but the youngest was more deliberate in choosing a gift for himself. Eventually, he chose a fountain pen.
Father and son walked home together, wrapped the gifts, and placed them under the tree with a note that said, “From Dad.” Christmas day had no surprises for the youngest, as he knew what he was getting. But now that Leonard’s youngest son, pastor Gary, is a father and grandfather, it is his favorite Christmas memory from childhood.
Seeing that his father was willing to spend all he had on his family and that he could be fun helped Leonard’s youngest son see his father in a new light. And he gained a deeper appreciation for his heavenly Father. God gave the very best He had. He gave all He had, His only begotten Son.
Third, it’s lavishing love. The New International Version translates I John 3:1, How great is the love the Father has lavished on us. The word bestowed or lavished, which means to give extravagantly, declares the measure of God’s love. God piles on His love in generous, extravagant quantities — without measure.
Two years ago, Caleb McCracken read an online article entitled, “Why I Gave My Kidney to a Stranger, and Why You Should Consider Doing It, too.” He learned that at any given time, there are something like 100,000 people waiting for a kidney. If a kidney doesn’t surface in a few years, these people will eventually die.
He finished law school, started a job, and when the time was right, began the application process to donate a kidney. He didn’t tell anyone until March, 2021, he had been approved.
Daniel McCracken, his older brother, ran across the same article and was already thinking of donating, but Caleb’s decision helped him take the leap. He applied, was accepted, and had his surgery after Thanksgiving, 2021.
Amy, the mom, a former lawyer, had been reading up on the process herself to learn about what her sons were going through, and she also decided to have the surgery and donate a kidney. She had her surgery on October 20 and is doing great.
“The idea that you can change someone’s life for the better, with just a few weeks of discomfort? To me, that seemed like an easy trade-off,” the mom shared. (ajc.com, “Georgia Mom, Two Sons Donate Kidneys, 11/22/2022).
Fourth, it’s permanent love. The tense used here for bestowed or lavished relays a state of completion – God has given this love and He’ll never take it away. They still had it. There is no fickleness in this love.
Fifth, it’s purposeful love. What did God’s love lead Him to do? See I John 4:9 and 4:14. God sent His Son to be our Savior. That’s what Christmas is all about. God took the initiative to give, to sacrifice so that we would have the opportunity to live forever in heaven.
Jesus came with a purpose: He was born to die so we might live with Him forever. How amazing! Every Christmas reminds us of God’s astonishing, astounding, awe-inspiring love.