When I think about God’s love at Christmastime, I often default to John 3:16. Jesus’ first advent (coming) was because of God’s love for us. This love is so immense that it would lead Jesus to die for us that we might be saved from our sins. I have experienced over the years that this universal expression of God’s love strongly focused on the individual. You know what I mean. “If I were the only one, Jesus would still have done all he did.” Now, “God so loved the world” has become “God so loved me.” There is nothing wrong with reveling in God’s love for us individually. In fact, we will never experience its fullness. But the problem with that is so often we fail to pull back the focus to the collective level. God so loved the world.
Jesus defined our religious responsibilities with one word – love, and two aspects – God and others. Jesus’ vision of love was primarily collective. Lately, I’ve defined this for myself as “loving God by loving others.” This forces me to not relegate my love for God to the private expressions only, but to see that God is honored when I look beyond myself for the sake of others.
As I wrote last week, Jesus’ understanding of Messiah was different than that of his contemporaries. The establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom was founded on restoring people (Luke 4:18-19) so that they in turn can carry Messiah’s anointing to restore people. The love inherent in Jesus’ message, “repent for the kingdom of God has come near,” is that in turning from our ways to God’s way our orientation of love turns as well from self to others.
When Mary and Joseph cuddled their baby Jesus, they probably didn’t realize that this little one they loved so much would change the world through an unprecedented act of sacrificial love. This is kingdom love. Jesus has invited us to participate in this kingdom love when proclaimed, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) May the love of Jesus become real in and through our hearts this Christmas as we love him by loving others.
Grace and peace,