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Advent: God With Us Brings LOVE!

Advent image of God with heart

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21 NIV)

Joseph had a real dilemma on his hands. His betrothed, Mary, was pregnant. And he knew he was not the father of the child. Mary's explanation: An angel appeared to me and told me I would be with child by the Holy Spirit, and that the baby would be the Anointed One.

How could any man believe such an unbelievable thing? Joseph was a man who was faithful to God's commandments, and the Law said his response should be to divorce her for her unfaithfulness. But that would expose Mary to the possibility of being stoned to death as an adulteress, and Joseph did not want that to happen to her.

Joseph was a good man. He considered the only solution he could come up with to be true to the law and protect Mary from being stoned. He had all but decided to divorce her privately, when he was visited by an angel in a dream.

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

It was true. Israel's God was finally moving to send the Messiah, and He had chosen to do so through his betrothed, Mary. She had not been unfaithful. This was God's doing. And the baby would be a son, whom he was to name Jeshua, which means "the Lord saves." His name would be His mission.

And so Joseph's fears were put to rest and Jesus gained an earthly father.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25 NIV)

Jesus came to earth to go to the cross. He was born to be our Savior. He grew up and had a brief, three-year public ministry that ended when He was crucified like a common criminal on a Roman cross. He laid down His life as the perfecet sacrifice for the sins of the world - including yours and mine. And He did it all out of love. The great love the Father has for us was made manifest in flesh and blood through the Son.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

I believe there are three profound implications in the love of God manifest in the life, death and resurrection of His Son:

Implication # 1 - God IS love. "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." (1 John 4:16 NIV) God is Holy, and God is Love. God is not a cosmic judge, just waiting for us to mess up so He can punish us. God is the loving father of the prodigal son, ready to forgive and redeem His beloved son when he returns home.

Implication # 2 - Nothing can separate us from God's love for us. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39 NIV) The God and Father of Jesus Christ will never stop loving you. Even if you refuse His love, it continues. You don't have to earn God's love - you already. have it!

Implication # 3 - They world will know we belong to Jesus by our love. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV) The greatest evidence that we follow Jesus and are being transformed into His image is holy love. It's love that looks beyond brokenness and sacrifices for another. It's love that overlooks offense. It's love that expresses itself in compassion. It's literally the love of Jesus alive in our hearts and flowing from our lives.

Because God is with us, we can love with Jesus' love. It's not just up to our human love that too often fails. When we know we are deeply, passionately, unconditionally loved by the Lord Jesus, and when we are filled with His Holy Spirit, we are set free to love with holy love. And then the world will know we are Christians. They will see Jesus in us.

This is the deepest meaning of Christmas. God became human to redeem His image-bearers from sin and death. He did it out of love. And His holy love, infused into our hearts through the very presence of His Holy Spirit, can become our nature, just as it is His nature.

Just as God put Joseph's fears to rest, He can cast out fear from our lives. Fear of rejection. Fear of punishment. Fear of eternal separation from the One who created us and loves us more than we love ourselves. His perfect, holy love casts out fear and makes us like Jesus. By faith in Jesus, we are His and He is ours. What an amazing God of holy love we serve!

Have a blessed Christmas!



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