Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Love

Last week in a nearby town, a depressed, suicidal man encountered a 19-year-old boy home on college break and killed him, then turned the gun on himself. One man's failings resulted in the death of another family's son. The family who lost a son is a Christian family, and I'm certain that if they encountered someone who was depressed or in need they would gladly help them out. I'm also sure that, like any of us, they would defend their home to whatever degree they needed in order to protect their children.

That's why the love of God is so overwhelmingly amazing. An old hymn reminds us, "Love
is the theme, eternal theme." Today's Advent emphasis captures the heart of God. Sometimes we have a tendency to see God as having reluctantly given up His Son. We apply to Him the feelings that we think we would feel if someone else's failings resulted in the death of our child.

We forget so easily that His love for us prompted Him to voluntarily send His only Son. He had created a perfect world. We used our free will to believe a lie and our sin messed up that world. And God fixed it anyway - because love is His eternal theme. It lies at the heart of who He is; 1 John tells us "God is love".

God didn't protect Jesus from us. The worst of humanity was seen as Jesus was rejected, spat upon, beaten, mocked, and ultimately crucified. At any point He could have stopped it. But He endured the cross even as He despised its shame (Hebrews 12:3). Adrian Rodgers spoke well when he said "The cross didn't change God's heart; it revealed it."

When God looked down upon the scene in the manger, He saw more than His Son. He saw His love for the world made tangible, so that we would be able to be restored to relationship with Him. He saw the ultimate glory of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation gathered around the throne, worshipping together for eternity.

He loved ... and so He gave.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. - (John 3:16-17 ESV)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - (Romans 8:31-39 ESV)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this. - (Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns." The voice of your watchmen--they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the LORD to Zion. Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. - (Isaiah 52:7-10 ESV)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." - (Revelation 21:1-4 ESV)

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