Christmas Love

In my previous post Bad Christmases, I discussed why Christmas can leave us so empty before, during, and after – how we are chasing good feelings and nostalgia. Unfortunately, reality bites us hard – a missing family member, ruined meals, fights and/or abuse, and a sad reminder that New Year’s Day is around the corner.

This is why Christians celebrate Advent – it is change our expectations and feelings. In the four weeks leading up to Christmas, we focus on 4 different things: hope, joy, peace, and love.

The longer I have been a Christian, the longer I realized that no one really understands those four things. No one really understands the full extent of hope, joy, peace, and love. Watching the Hallmark or Lifetime channels at Christmas, those four things are extremely watered down versions of what the Bible offers. It’s like drinking skimmed milk or diluted orange juice, or eating a microwave dinner. For those movies, “hope” is defined as the antidote for those who are angry at Christmas or not in the spirit of celebration. “Joy” is redefined as “happiness” – which is problematic since even the M&W Dictionary differentiate those two words. I have no idea about “peace” but for love – it’s romantic love or familial love.

What then does the Bible offer?

  1. Our hope in Christ is that death is not final. For those in Christ, when we die, the hope of heaven is real. It’s way better than what we can imagine. Think of the most beautiful place on Earth – Hawaii, New Zealand, the Serengeti. Now multiply that by 1000, 10,000, 100,000. That is what heaven will be like.
  2. We have hope in this life. Not a hope for a better country without racism, or a vibrant economy, or our preferred candidate in the White House. If that is what you want, you will be disappointed at the next election or the one after that. The hope in Christ steadies us amidst our trials.
  3. The hope, joy, and peace allows us to grieve. In Matthew 5:4, Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” In this crazy world marked by sin, sadness, and death, Jesus came to comfort us. You can come to him with all your hurts and pains and he won’t turn you away. I have asked God on more than one occasion to take away my mental anguish. Sometimes I might not get delivered or healed immediately, but somehow I am able to sleep at night. That’s a peace I haven’t found elsewhere.

The crown jewel is love. Not the fuzzy feelings at Christmas or Valentines, but sacrificial love at the soul level. If you read C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves, Lewis discusses storge (family), philia (friendship), eros (romantic/physical), and agape. The first three are reciprocal and “Need-Loves”. They are also easily corrupted. Agape or “Gift-Love” is the highest love. It contains the attributes of sacrifice, charity (the KJV translated agape as charity), and purity. It cannot be corrupted because this is God’s love. In 1 John, we find the verse, the apostle says “God is love (agape)”. In fact, until Christianity emerged, the Greeks and the Romans never used agape for love.

The point of Christmas is that God became flesh and dwelled among us. He came to comfort us and give us real hope, real joy, and real shalom (wholeness and well-being), and demonstrated that love by dying for our sins. Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship likes to say: “The shadow of the cross hung over the cradle.”

This Christmas, will you consider that love instead? Even as you share gifts and eat the endless meals, will you remember how God in Jesus broke through the veil and entered our world?

Merry Christmas!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s