December 19, 2021

The Gift Of Love

Passage: 1 John 4:7-21

Christmas stories are fascinating – especially this time of the year.  There is the story of Cibor, a man named Andrew, shared in a Christian magazine.  Andrew went to a Care Home in London on Christmas Eve 2005, as he has been doing for years.  He always asked at the front desk if he could see people who haven’t had visits from friends or family around Christmas.  He was taken to Cibor’s room.  Cibor shared that he was born in Poland in 1935 and he and his family ended up in Auschwitz in 1942.  He was 8 years old at the time and on Christmas Eve there weren’t any gifts.  He was sad, he told Andrew, but didn’t say anything to his parents.  But then unexpectedly his father took something out of a chest in the corner of the room.  It was wrapped in brown paper.  His father said, “This is the best Christmas gift I can offer you.”  Cibor pointed to a wooden horse on the shelf in his room.  He said in a soft voice, “That is the most precious gift I ever received.  My father carved it with his pocket knife.  It took him many hours in his free time.  Not even the gift of freedom surpasses what my father gave me on Christmas Eve 1942.”                                                                                                                         

How do we value a gift or put a price on it?  Is it by its size or it weight?  There's some truth in that.  A 5000 sq. foot house will definitely be more expensive than a 1000 sq. foot house.  And when you put a price on gold you do it by its weight.  There are women who would say, “It's all about the size of the diamond in the ring.”  I think most of us will say, “You value a gift by its efficiency.”  This morning we’re going to meditate on the Gift God gave us.  It was a Gift, not wrapped in paper with bows and a card attached to it.  No, it was a Gift wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.  And God’s Gift had LOVE written all over it.  You know it’s quite a difference to get a gift that was given in love than a gift given out of obligation.  A young woman who worked at a law firm went to a store just before Christmas and told a clerk, “It’s my unwanted task to buy gifts for the staff.  Let’s get it over with.”  That’s not how God gave His Love Gift to us.  No, John says, “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.”  1 John 4: 9.  The kind of love we think about in Advent is that God emptied His heavenly realms from what was most precious to Him when He gave His only begotten Son to a sinful world.

As we consider God’s Gift we first think of 1 Its Usefulness.  We read in verse 9, “…that we might live…”  Jesus expressed the same usefulness of His coming to the world in this way, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  John 10:10.  What a wonderful gift that is!  Not just life – not just existence, but life which means something.  There is the testimony of a NHL hockey player, Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes that is worth sharing.  When he was on his way to the NHL he had a bad injury and he was very angry.  At that time he wasn’t a Christian.  He was difficult to be around  for family and friends, but then he met a Christian girl, who had a good influence in his life.  She told him about the love of Jesus and with tears running from his eyes he surrendered his life to God.  He told friends, “My life was useless before I met Jesus, but I didn’t know that.  It was like a book without written pages or a play without a script…and only Jesus could change that.”  My friends, the coming of Jesus affirms to each one of us, “I have come that you may have life…”  And our Lord demonstrated that to perfection – He gave the meaning of life to Zacchaeus, a man who was searching for answers.  He climbed into a sycamore tree to see Jesus and he found the meaning of life when he met the Saviour of the world.  From that moment there was usefulness in his life.  And there was Peter.  He thought his life couldn't have more meaning when He walked with Jesus for three years.  There was so much love in all those miracles he witnessed.  But then when Jesus reinstated him at the Sea of Galilee he discovered a purpose he never had before.  The love of Jesus transformed him.  Can we appreciate the fact that God’s Gift isn’t one of those that we will put in a drawer and later in a box to go up to the attic?  No, each day of our lives we think of the value of Jesus Christ in people’s lives.  He was and is the most talked about Person in the world, for it is He Who changes people’s lives; it is only He Who can lift people out of the slimy pit of sin.  But the sad reality of Christmas again this year is that thousands around the world will miss the Christ Child – just like the Inn keeper in Bethlehem and all the people of that little town that didn’t make room for Jesus.  My friend does the usefulness of God’s Gift Of Love move your heart that you feel in this moment, “I want to sing about the love of God”?

When we consider God’s Gift Of Love, we think of 2 Its Cost.  A survey revealed that parents in North America will spend on average $267-00 per child on Christmas gifts and that $15.2 billion will be wasted on unwanted Christmas gifts world-wide.  But you know, nothing can be compared to the cost of Jesus coming to this world.  It was more expensive than what we can ever estimate...for it asked the most precious blood to be shed.  John says in verse 10, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  O my friends, when we assemble at the manger of Bethlehem, we have to see the images of Golgotha before us.  For there the deepest agony from the beginning of time until the end played itself out.  There the Man of Sorrows paid the ransom for our sins when He was thirsty to the point of death, when He felt Godforsaken and when he finally committed His Spirit in the hands of His Father.  Yes, Christmas is never about sentiments my friends; it's never about the emotions of a Baby in the manger.  No, it's about that Baby Who grew into a man to shed His blood for the world.  The cost we couldn't come up with, Jesus offered for us.  Sometimes we think that we gave the highest cost, but then it's far from it.  There was once a bridge operator who let the train bridge up for boats to pass through and then he let it down for passing trains.  One day he took his 5 year old son with him and when a train approached he was missing.  He then heard cries from below where the bridge gears were.  His son climbed down there, but got stuck.  There was no time for the bridge operator to go down and rescue his son, for more lives would be lost if the train went into the water.  So, he let the bridge down, and as he looked at people sitting in the compartments, he cried out, “I sacrificed my son for you and you don't even know it!”  And then it came to him – There was a sacrifice far more extensive.  It was when the Son of God died for the world and that was no accident.  God gave His Son and He knew about the cost.  But that's how much He loved us.  That's what Advent Love is all about.

There is a last thought we think of when we consider God’s Gift Of Love – 3 Its Affect.  We read in verse 11, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  What the apostle wanted to say was, “You can’t look at the love of God in Jesus and then look at your brothers and sisters next to you in a different way.  No, you will want to love them.  You will want to sacrifice a lot for them.”  Isn’t it true that when the love of Jesus comes into a person’s heart you look at others through the eyes of Jesus?  You see a difficult family member as Jesus sees them; you see someone suffering in this world as Jesus sees them.  And then you love, as Jesus loves.  We thank God for the gift of love and we can only know love because of God’s Gift Of Love.  Let’s come back on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and celebrate this Gift coming into our world.

Amen.

Rev. Willem H. van de Wall