Amen, alright Well we've been in a series preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus for Advent just called "Love Gives." Using this season as an opportunity to think about the birth of Jesus. Not just the details of the story but the the significance of it the importance of it. The importance of it. I'm coming at it from the perspective that the birth of Jesus is a definitive move of God within history that describes and really ultimately defines What Love Is. That the nature of Christmas and the meaning within it is for us to understand and receive and then walk in the reality of the love of God. Christmas is about the love of God. We see this very clearly most well-known verse in scripture John 3:16. Been our foundation for this series. For God so loved the world that he gave. He gave his only Son. It was a incredibly costly gift. A deep and profound sacrifice, but that's what love does. Love Gives. It's the nature of love to give. And so we've been exploring together just the reality of this love this morning. I want to kind of bring the series together and think with you from the scriptures about how love is how love connects. Love joins everything together at the end of the day it really is All About Love. As we are just a couple of, two days away from Christmas and getting ready to celebrate the the birth of Jesus. I want us to think again about the birth of Jesus and how it reflects love. And I want to use a different text this morning than you might expect. I'm not going to use one of the narratives from the Gospels. There's not going to be any Angels or Shepherds or wise men. We know the details of the story. I rather I want to go to First John, one of the Epistles, and this is a Christmas text. It just doesn't tell us the details of the story it explains to us this significance of the story. So if you got your Bibles, would you open up the first John chapter 1.
1 John chapter 1.
That which was from the beginning.
Sorry having some technical difficulties. That which was from the beginning which we have heard which we have seen with our eyes which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands concerning the word of life.
The life made manifest and we have seen it and testify to it and Proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made manifest to us.
This is a text about Christmas. This is a text about (I don't know why we're on Colossians.)
Thank you. Do you feel the love this morning?
Let's try this again. That which was from the beginning which we have heard which we have seen with our eyes which we have looked upon and have touched with our hands concerning this Word of Life. John starts out this little letter to the churches and and he's going to tell them about Jesus. And what I love about this text is that John is actually using language from the court system of his day. In order to give evidence in the Roman courts there were certain degrees and categories that would allow you to give evidence. It wasn't hearsay it had to be personally verified. What he does in this beginning is he says I'm going to tell you the story of Christmas, but I want you to know it's not just another story. This isn't something I heard from somebody else. Right, what I'm going to tell you: I heard it. I saw it with my own eyes. I looked upon it. I touched it with my hands.
The Word of Life came. The life was made manifest.
The word became flesh and dwelt among us. God came into our midst and again, we've seen it and we testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has been made manifest to us.
What John's doing here, he's saying listen. I'm going to tell you a story. But know this, it's not a fable. It's not a myth. It's not hearsay. It's not imaginary. It's not a dream. This is rooted in history. This actually happened. I was there. I saw it. I heard it. I touched it. I felt it. This is how I want you to know the story of Christmas, but I want you to know it's not just a story. I like that this morning because you know, the reality is almost everybody in our culture is going to celebrate Christmas in some way shape or form. And we all know the story.
I'm afraid that maybe we only know it as the story. Just a nice story. Oh, yeah, baby was born, there were animals and and there's all this nice stuff happening and it's just a nice story, but doesn't really mean anything.
I think for many in our culture. It really doesn't. It really doesn't. we live in a world that says, you know, it's a nice story and there's wonderful traditions and you can enjoy it or not enjoy it but at the end of the day, it's just a story. It doesn't really matter. And we might say it does matter. It's, it's telling God's story. It's giving us important theological and doctrinal Truth. God was born. This is about the Incarnation. This is about God coming to Earth. And they say Oh come on now. Doctrine doesn't really matter. Theology doesn't really matter. Really? What, what matters? The only thing that matters is that we we live a good life. We have a nice life, and we try to do good thing. That's the world we live in. Of course, the irony is unescapable to me. Somebody says Doctrine doesn't matter, all that really matters is to live a good life. My response to that is that's a Doctrine. That's a Doctrine you believe. It's we call it the doctrine of good works. That's a doctrine. If you do enough good things if you live a good life, then you're going to be okay. That's what really matters. That's a Doctrine! Interesting Doctrine. What does it mean? It's really hard to Define. What does it mean to do good things was it mean to live a good life? I think generally in our culture. It means don't be Hitler and listen. I'm glad if you're not Hitler that but can we set the bar a little higher?
This is the world that we live in don't just try to live a good life. Try to live. Good thing. Try to do good things being nice person. That's not a life without doctrine. That is a Doctrine. But it's not the doctrine of Christmas. The doctrine of Christmas is not do good things, be nice people, try to live a good life. The doctrine of Christmas is actually the exact opposite of that. the doctrine of Christmas is you're not good people.
You've done wrong things. You can't figure this out on your own and this is where the uniqueness of Christianity comes fully into view. Every other religion, every other religion is some sort of road map to do certain things in order to get certain results. I don't care what religion is I don't care where it comes from. That's how they all operate. Do this ritual, do this belief, that live this kind of Life, give this sort of offering. If you do these sorts of things then you'll get the life or eternal life that you desire. That's how every other religion works, but that's not how Christianity works. That's not what Christmas is all about.
You see that with me in these first two verses? John says I'm going to tell you a story but it's not a story of what we did. It's not a story of how we performed and then God performed. He says I'm going to tell you a story about how the life came to us.
Christmas is a radical scandalous stories of God's grace. Doesn't treat us according to our Deeds. He does not give us what we deserve. Instead of giving us what we deserve He gives us Hiself. He gave us the best thing he had to give.
If you thought about it that way but when God gave to us, He gave us the best thing he had to give. He gave us himself. I read a story couple days ago. A teacher in Washington State low income Community every single student in her schools on free lunches and breakfasts and she was a first grade teacher had this little student in her class that wanted to give her a Christmas present literally didn't have anything and had nothing to give. Other kids were bringing little gifts and little this this kid literally had nothing. The child came to school on Friday the last day of the week before the break, it just happened. Came in to receive their free breakfast got a box of Lucky Charms. They're magically delicious.
This child then opened up the box of Lucky Charms and then took out a baggie and then proceeded to go through and take out all of the marshmallows. The good stuff! Nobody likes Lucky Charms without the marshmallows. Picked out all the marshmallows out of their free breakfast wrapped it up put a little bow on it and then gave it to the teacher. Something about that story just connected with my heart. Like gave the best and the only thing that they had to give. That's what love does. Love gives the best. When God gave, the best thing he could give to us was Himself. That's what He gave. John described as life life itself came into our midst. Life entered into our world. God gave us what we truly need. Life.
God himself entered into our world. What a beautiful thought. You know in 1961, I wasn't alive.
Not even close but some of y'all were. The Russians since their first cosmonaut into space. Orbited the Earth. A big deal! A scientific and technological advancement. They sent a man up into space and he orbited the Earth. It was a big, big deal. Nikita Khrushchev was the premier of Russia at the time and he made a big deal out of it was interesting is the way he made a big deal out of it because the official religion of the USSR at the time with atheism. Khrushchev was a devout atheist. When they sent the first cosmonaut to circle the Earth he got on, you know, what a press briefing and made this big announcement that he said the official religion of Russia is atheism and we have just proved it. We went to the heavens and God wasn't there.
Fascinating. Now the thing about saying stuff is that smart people are going to hear it and might respond to it. That's why we should all be careful. CS Lewis was alive at the time. He was a smart dude. So a couple years later, 1963 CS Lewis sat down and he wrote a little essay called "The Seeing Eye" in which he responded to Khrushchev claims that they disproved God because they went to heaven. And he said, he said a couple things he said first of all it's just a fundamental misunderstanding of reality. Just because, the relationship between Creator and created is not like the relationship between us a house owner and a tenant right? It's not like you live on the first floor and God lives on the second floor. Right and you walked up the stairs to the second floor knocked on the door and nobody answered your like "Ah He doesn't exist!
That's not the way it works. He said rather the relationship between the Creator and the creature, the Creator and the creation. it's something that requires the Creator himself to reveal himself. If the if the creator doesn't reveal himself, there's not that much that we can know about him and he uses this interesting metaphor. He said it's actually kind of like the author of a play. Used Shakespeare as an example. If you go to the theater and you watch Hamlet as you're watching Hamlet if you look around for Shakespeare, are you going to see him? If you go up into the rafters, is he going to be up there? If you go down to the pit with the orchestra? Is he going to be there? If you go into the green rooms and the changerooms are you going to find? No, but Shakespeare's everywhere. There is no Hamlet without Shakespeare.
And then he drives this beautiful comparison. He says, Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the author writes himself into the play. He writes himself in as a character. So that now we can interact with Him. I love on of the closing paragraphs in this essay he says this. He says space travel has nothing to do with the existence of God. He says to some got is discoverable everywhere to others nowhere. He says this those who do not find him on Earth are unlikely to find him in space. Then in a very British way, he goes: hang it all we're in space already every year we go on a huge circular tour around the Sun. Love that.
Then he says this send a saint up in a spaceship and he'll find a God in space just as he found God on Earth. Much depends on the seeing eye.
Much depends on the Seeing Eye. What are you seeing this Christmas? What are you hearing this Christmas as you hear the story of the birth of Jesus as you're faced with the giving loving God who gave the best thing he could give gave himself.
Christmas is so much more than a story. Its history. It's reality. Love condescended. Love came down and love confronts us. It gets in our face, its physical. It's real. It's tangible. It's not an idea. It's not a hope. It's not fanciful. It's flesh.
Christmas is about the Incarnation, right? Y'all know, I like food. Like food a lot so I I think through theology in terms of food. It works for me doesn't work for everybody but works for me. When I think about Christmas I think about chile. That's just how my brain works. Chili there's lots of different kinds of chili, right? You can have chili con queso. What's that? chili with cheese. That's good, but it's not the best. The best is chili con. Carne. What's up? chili with meat. chili with flesh. The Incarnation,
God with flesh
God with bones. God with meat. Love gave in such a way that we could receive it. Jesus moved into the neighborhood. Jesus came as one of us. Immortality put on mortality, Infinity becomes finite. God's moves into the neighborhood so that we can be confronted by his great love. What a beautiful thought, Christmas. It's so much more than a nice stories to give us warm feeling Christmas is the dramatic move of God that changes in transforms everything. God so loved that he gave the best thing he had to give he gave Himself! Think about what that means? Now we going to Colossians. I love Colossians 1 and 15 to 20 listen to how this starts: He is the image of the invisible God. That's one of those phrases that makes my brain just want to collapse sometimes. How does the invisible God have an image? con Carne! He puts in a flesh. He moves into the neighborhood. Jesus is the image of the invisible God He's the firstborn of all creation. By Him all things were created in heaven and on Earth visible and invisible Thrones or dominions rulers or authority all things were created through him. And for him. Jesus is a really big deal. When God gave he gave us the best. When God gave He gave us the most important thing. God gave us Jesus. It continues. He is before all things and in him all things hold together. Hold on to that thought, in him all things hold together. Our sermon this morning is love connects. Love connects all things. Love gives us the meaning of history and the meaning of history is wrapped up in the person of Jesus. He the head of the body the church He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in everything He might be pre-eminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. And through him to reconcile to Himself all things whether on Earth or in the heavens making peace by the blood of the Cross. When God gave He gave the best. When God gave He gave Himself. When God gave He gave because he loved. Love Came Down. Love confronts us.
Love captures us. Love Changes us. Let's go back to first John. Verse 3 continues it says: that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you. So that you too might have fellowship with us and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His son Jesus Christ. Now we're getting to the meaning, the substance, the significance of Christmas. Why Christmas? Why did God give? What does God want from us? What does God want for us? What is the meaning and the importance; the reality of Christmas? If it's more than just a nice little story What is it all about? And John lays it out for us very clearly He says that which we have seen and heard we proclaim to you, were telling you the story for one reason, so that you too may have fellowship with us and we have fellowship with the father and the Son.
The message of Christmas is this: God wants you!
God Wants You! Doesn't want your performance, doesn't want your behavior, doesn't want your obligations, doesn't want your duty, He wants you. He wants your heart. He wants your willful Joyful participation. God wants us not cuz we're awesome.
Cuz he's awesome. God wants us. We're telling you the Christmas story so that you might have Fellowship. Great word in the Greek, Koinonia. For me growing up, I heard Fellowship a lot. I grew up in a Baptist Church Fellowship meant potluck. That's what it meant. And there ain't nothing wrong with a potluck.
Take them all day long, but Fellowship is so much more than that. Interesting word is actually used in Greek in in business terms more often than not. Koinonia described when two businesses would partner together for a common and shared goal. You got to remember in that time and age businesses were basically family Enterprises, right? Granddaddy was a Carpenter, dad was a carpenter, you were a carpenter. granddaddy was a fisherman. That's just the way it works. And when sometimes these businesses would partner together they would come together in Koinonia. In fellowship. Partnerships, they would share the burden. that means they would share the profits and means they would share the losses. It means they were in it together. This was a coming together of life. It was the creation of something new and significant. That's that's what fellowship means. It doesn't mean, you know, the passing the peace shaking somebody's hand give him a hug. It doesn't mean having you know, the jello with the carrots in it at the potluck it.
It means we share life together. We share common purpose, we share family. John writing in this epistle says this and I want you to know the story of Christmas so that you might enter into fellowship with us. Interesting the way that he orders it. He doesn't say so that you might enter into a personal relationship with God. That's how we'd frame it in American culture. Message of Christmas is that you're awesome, God wants you to believe in him, pray a prayer after you die - Don't go to hell go to heaven. That's how we'd write it today. That's not how John writes it. He said I'm telling you this so you might know it and you might enter into God's family you might enter into community and fellowship with us. And guess what we have relationship with the father and the Son. We're entering into God's work. We're entering into the kingdom reality. We're coming into that new thing that Christ has established not only in his birth, but in His death and in His Resurrection. Come into life. Join us in God's work. Join us in the reality of Christ's love that is still shaping and rippling and impacting the world. Come into God's family business.
Isn't that so much better than don't go to hell and go to heaven. You see what God is offering Us by offering Jesus by offering Himself. He's revealing that what he really wants is to connect with us.
To be in intimate relationship with us. Christmas reveales that God's heart is for us not against us.
What He wants Is Us.
Love calls us to Him. Love calls us to Him and it calls us a close intimate relationship. Love's not a concept, it's a person.
Love communes. Together. Shares life. The message of Christmas, I hope you think about it tomorrow Christmas Eve Tuesday on Christmas Day. As you think about the birth of Jesus, I hope that you realize that you have not just one but many moments throughout the day where you recognize that God sending His son is an invitation to you to come into intimate relationship with Him and His people. It's not an invitation into a way of belief. It's an invitation into a way of life.
God actually wants us. Isn't that good news? Then he goes on and he says this we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. That's interesting. He goes I'm going to tell you the story of Jesus so that you might come into fellowship with us and with the Father and the Son and I'm doing that because I want joy to be complete. That's interesting and beautiful and wonderful and make sense when you really think about it. What what he's saying is that this is the most important things that can ever happen to anyone. This is the best news that anyone anywhere is ever going to hear. God is for us. That God has demonstrated His love for us in this while we were still sinners Christ died for us. This is the beautiful, scandalous, glorious message of the gospel. God is for us not against us. I want everyone to know that because as everyone knows that Joy comes. There's no Greater Joy.
than living in the love of God. This is what it's about. I want everyone to to not only receive the joy of God, but to share it I want everybody to live in it. Love completes. Love connects and love completes. You know as I was thinking about it this week it just really struck me.
The ultimate importance of love There's a lot of important things but none of them come close to Love. Love is Central to everything in the Scripture. It really is. And not a weak, not a not a weak love of you do what you want and I'll do what I want. But a strong love. I'm going to tell you what you need to hear. Not what you like to hear. I'm going to do what you need not what you want. a love that gives and sacrifices for the sake of others not a selfish love but a self-giving love. Love is everything. And what struck me about it as I was thinking about it is I went back to Creation. It struck me. We were created out of love. We're the product of love. Sometimes we we miss think about creation. We think God was lonely so he created us. And I go surely He could have done better. If that's the way we think something's askew. The scriptures don't tell us that. They don't say God was lacking something. God was lonely. God needed a playmate. God needed something. No the scriptures describe for us at a self-sufficient. Infinitely happy and satisfied God. A God who never lacks but is always overflowing. Not a god that is lonely but a God that exists in community and I know we're walking on weird Hallowed Ground when we talk about the Trinity; that there's one God who exists in three persons father son and spirit just follow through this logic with me God exists in community The Father loves the son the Son loves the Father The Father loves the Spirit the spirit loves the Father the Son loves both of them both and love the way it works and God in his reality of Love creates not because he is lacking something but because He has so much to give. We are born out of love. Think about that. We're not accidental. We're not happenstance we're intentional. We are the product of God's choice. We are born out of love and we are born for love. You read that beginning in Genesis, The Creation and the Eden and God walking in the garden with them in the cool of the day were made for God were made by Him for Him were made for intimate satisfying relationship with God. We're bone out of love and we're born for love but sin has wrecked that. Sin has corrupted it sin has tainted it.
So God does what only God could. God sends himself. He write Himself into our story so that he can deal with what we broke and couldn't put back together. We're started in love. We're saved by love. saved by love We started by love. We're saved by love. Do you think we're going to finish in anything other than love? Love is it y'all! Loves the big deal. Love is Everything. Nothing matters without love. Love creates the context where anything has value or meaning. It's All About Love.
Shouldn't be surprised as John comes to the end of his epistle. He writes this. Beloved. Interesting John always writes and he calls people beloved. That's his primary identity. If you got to sit down with John and say dude, who are you? How do you see yourself? He'd say I'm the Beloved. It's interesting in his gospel He doesn't even name himself. He doesn't use his own name. Do you know what He calls himself. The disciple that Jesus loved. It's interesting Paul will write and he'll call us called out ones or Saints members of the Household. Luke will write and he'll say we're brothers and sisters were family, but went when John writes
You're beloved. You're Loved. And I know that for some of you right now I say that and you go: Well yeah but I'm not very lovely.
The things I've done, the ways I've failed; I don't deserve God's love. You're right. We don't deserve God's love. That's the beauty of it. He Loves Us in spite of us.
Don't deserve it, but He gives it. You're not beloved because you do all the right things or you don't do the wrong things your beloved because when the father looks at you he loves you.
And that love caused Him to send His Son. So he writes this: beloved, let us love one another, For love is from God. And whoever loves has been born of God, and knows God. Love is everything! He continues, anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love. That is a powerful statement. God is love. At the essence at the core of what God is in his trinitarian reality He is love. God is many things. He is Holy. He is righteous He is wrathful. He is just. He is patient. He is many many things. But but all of them are encompassed in His love. His justice is a loving Justice. His patience is a loving patience even his wrath is a loving wrath. Anyone who does not know love does not know God because God is love.
In this love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him. God sent his Son, so that we might come into Fellowship. We might have life.
In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and Sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. Beloved, If God so loved us we also ought to love one another.
If God so loved us, how can we not love one another? Love initiates. Love makes the first move. Love condescends. Loves comes down to the level. Love doesn't wait for people to get their stuff cleaned up. Tragially that's how love works in ur culture doesn't it? I'll love you if your lovely. I love you if you love me in return. But if you mess up, if you violate my understanding of what love should look like I will withhold and withdraw my love from you. That's how love operates in the world, but that's not love.
Love's not originated in the behavior or the performance of others, love originates in the heart of the lover.
God loves us that way. We received that love. How can we not then turn around and love others in the same way?
Beloved your so loved. You've been so loved by God, how can you not love?
Finishes this way, no one has ever seen God if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.
I don't know about you, but I want that. I want more of that. I want that in my Christmas this year. I want that in my house. I want that in my family. I want that in my neighborhood. I want that for the world. Can we just agree that we need more love?
We need more love. On the news? Don't we need more love on Facebook?
Don't we need more love in our politics? Don't we need more love in our businesses? It's so easy to sit back and say all we need more love in the world. We need more love in all these broken places. Church don't we need more love here? Love originates in God and John says it's perfected within us. Within us. Yeah, I want more love in the world but I really want is more love in the church. Want more love in God's people. I want us to look more and more like Jesus and sadly we don't very often. Don't we? Can we just be honest? There's an interesting verse in the scripture that says knowledge puffs up but love builds up. I'm afraid that the American church is really bloated and puffy. We love our knowledge. We love our Doctrine. We love our right-thinking. We think we've got the answers. We think we figured it out. We are puffed up. Knowledge does that but love doesn't do that. Love builds up. Love doesn't build itself, love builds the other
This Christmas, and Lord lease not let it just be on one day.
As we as we receive the love of God as He gives us the very best thing that He had to give Himself, Jesus. The best way we honor Him is by living and walking in that love. By receiving it, and giving it away.
I don't know about you. I want it to start with me. My prayer last night and this morning was God don't let me be a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Don't let me preach about love and not have it in my heart.
I want more Love. Means I Want More Jesus. I want more love in the church, which means I Want More Jesus in the church. I want us to grow in love. We are to be known by our love for one another. May God use this season of Advent, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, to make his love known to our hearts. And as His love is known to us, may His love be shown through us. Amen.