For many children, one of the chief joys of Christmas is receiving a present or two under a tree or wherever such presents go in their home. Sometimes, wrapped gifts make an appearance early and eager eyes and minds try to decipher what the wrapping could be hiding. Other times, nothing appears until Christmas morning, when happy hearts prepare to receive gifts given to them in love and expectation.
Love is the theme for the last Sunday of Advent. Love of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
God is Love.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, we read in the book of Genesis. In the Gospel of John, we read:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
As soon as there was sin in the world, God knew there would have to be a gift given to reconcile man back into a walking-in-the-garden relationship with him. So he began to put everything in motion, setting it up, bringing people together and choosing those that he would use to exemplify his grace to all of mankind.
Stubborn folks, his people. Yesterday and today, people are hard headed.
Still, God loved us so much that he prepared a great and wonderful gift—the forgiveness of every single transgression anyone would ever make. Every single one, paid for forever. And all the recipient has to do is agree the gift is needed, wanted, and will be cherished.
To me, there is an endless amount of love, here. I think hard about what I want to give others for Christmas. Many of us do, right? We plot, we plan, we save, we create or we shop or . . .do all the things. It is a delight to prepare and anticipate giving. It is indeed “more blessed to give than to receive” in that way.
God had this anticipation building up for eons.
Then, it was time to present this fantastic, dearly-bought gift to his people. Many were waiting for it, looking for it, expecting it to come a certain way, but God had a plan. He gave his gift to us in a sheltered stable in Bethlehem one night. And then he sent a host of angels to bring his birth announcement to the world!
To shepherds. Because his son, Jesus, would be known as the Good Shepherd. Because God’s servant David had been a shepherd. Because he knew the shepherds would listen.
Delighted and amazed with this gift, the shepherds shared what they had seen and heard. Their joy was bountiful, their hearts were forever changed.
Christmas is coming. I hope our hearts will always be forever changed by believing in the love of God shown to us through the giving of his son, Jesus.
He will always be our Immanu El – God with us.