Many years ago in Bolivia, there was an official in the king's palace, named Alejandro. He was an outspoken Christian and the king, who wasn't a believer, was greatly troubled by this. He summoned Alejandro and said, “In this country, there is no one more superior than me. Give me a good reason why I shouldn't dismiss you right now.” The king paused for a moment and continued, “Only if you can convince me to become a Christian, will you keep your position. Tomorrow you have to come up with something extraordinary or else...” Alejandro prayed for wisdom throughout the night. The next day he appeared before the king and said, “Majesty, I want to share my thoughts on the river. We can take my boat.” The king was a bit annoyed, but agreed. As Alejandro rowed his boat, he went close to the other side of the river. He had his son waiting in the bushes with a doll the size of a small child. Just as his son heard them approaching, he was to let the doll into the water. But you see, the doll was dressed in the same clothes as the king's son. When the king looked before him, he saw what he thought was his son in the water. Without hesitation, he jumped into the water, but it was a doll he retrieved. Very relieved, but also furious he asked Alejandro, “What's the meaning of this? Is this some kind of sick joke?” With caution Alejandro replied, “Majesty, just as you jumped into the water, because of the love for your son, God in His love broke into the world to save people.” The king was speechless. He said, “I don't know what to think of this, but I can't dismiss you.” 1 John 4: 9 tells us of Love Divine becoming a reality – “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” There can never be greater love than giving yourself to others. We heard the reading of perhaps the most loved verse in the bible, John 3: 16, a few minutes ago – “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...” Advent Love reminds us that God gave a Gift that is above and beyond anything that has ever been given.
Let’s look at 1 John 4: 7-21 and see why God's love is so unique. In these 21 verses from 1 John 4 the word agape for love or a derivative occurs 27 times. When God repeats a word so many times He wants us to know that He was serious about bestowing His love upon us. It wasn’t something sentimental as many want to believe during the Christmas Season. They get carried away with the Baby and His mother, with Joseph nearby and the shepherds and the magi presenting Him gifts. What can be more enchanting than that? But you see, God wants us to comprehend what Love Divine is all about.
John tells us that 1 Love Divine Is Steadfast. We read in verse 8, “God is love...” We should think of this as permanent or steadfast as God is. Webster’s Dictionary tells us that steadfast means firm, fixed, settled, or established. Thus, God loves us with a firm, settled and established love. It's not something that wavers with the changing times. Psalm 103: 17 reads, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children…” Charles Spurgeon told the story of a preacher who was walking in the country side and stopped by a farm house for a drink of water. The old farmer who lived there went out to talk to the preacher. As they were talking the preacher noticed that the barn had a weather vane on it that was spinning around in the wind. On the weather vane the words "GOD IS LOVE" were painted. The preacher said to the farmer, "I don’t think that's a very good way to portray God’s love. Are you saying that God’s love is wishy-washy and changes depending on the way the wind blows?" "No, no", said the farmer. "That weather vane means, 'No matter which way the wind blows, God is always Love.’" Why can we believe on this fourth Sunday in Advent that God’s love is steadfast? Because it speaks of His nature and character. Love is what God is all about. Love equals His heart. That’s what He thought about when He sent Jesus to us. But can we appreciate the fact that God's heart burned with love already just after we fell in sin? He wasn't going to give up on us like we sometimes give up on one another. The prophet Hosea prophesied in chapter 11:8, "How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboyim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.” The words, “...all my compassion is aroused...”, read in some translations, “...my love for you is too strong.” There is no greater love in the whole world my friends, than the love God demonstrated when He tore His only begotten Son from His heart and gave Him to sinners. You will appreciate with me that God has so many reasons not to love us? There were so many times when we disappointed Him and broke His heart. But He is God and steadfast in His love. When Moses came down Mount Sinai after he received the Ten Commandments, he found the children of Israel worshiping the golden calf. Moses broke the stone tablets in anger and God had all the reason to wipe out His people. But He didn't. He instructed Moses to chisel out two new tablets for He wanted to write again His commandments for His people. And then we read the following words in Exodus 34: 6, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...” What is steadfast in the world we live? Nothing, because everything changes. The Greek Philosopher Haraklitus said, “Panta Rei – everything moves or changes.” But you know, God doesn't move or change in His love. It's steadfast.
John tells us about 2 The Reason For Love Divine. Listen again to verse 9, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.” Appreciate with me the impact of these words, “….that we might live through Him.” God looked down from heaven and He saw that we were walking towards the precipice of self-destruction. There was no other destiny for us – because of our rebellion against God there was just definite death. But God decided that He would send someone to save us. That someone was Jesus. He came and took our place on the cross so that we could live. My friends, we have to try and comprehend the wider picture God had in front of Him, the night Jesus was born. Away from the stable in Bethlehem, there was the hillside outside the city of Jerusalem. There God already visualized the cross that was going to be planted 33 years later. Yes, Love Divine that became a reality on Christmas, led all the way to a dark Friday, the Good Friday, when God gave His Son as a sacrifice of love to the world. Can you see the picture of the cross in your mind? Can you affirm the words of the hymn, “And can it be that I should gain?” - “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!” We praise God for His love...and we prepare our hearts as we go to Bethlehem to welcome our Saviour on Christmas Eve.
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall