Summary: The heart of the Christmas story

Advent # 4 Resource - Christmas Is Not Your Birthday, Mike Slaughter, Abingdon Press, 2011

A Love Story

Christmas is a love story. John frames it that way. “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) But, God’s love story is not about roses, candlelight, and romance! It’s more like blood, sweat, and tears. His is a bold love, offered in the face of rejection, persistently. It’s a story of pursuit, an amazing account of just how far He would go to reach out to people who not only ignore Him, but actually love other things more than Him.

The love story of Christmas was foreshadowed in the tawdry lines of Hosea, written 7 centuries before the birth of Jesus. It’s as scandalous as Desperate Housewives, as full of drama as a Jerry Springer show! In the story of Hosea, God illustrates His love for people who turn their backs on Him.

TEXT Hosea - PB 1395

The nation of Israel was enjoying a booming economy. Jeroboam had reduced the tax burden that Solomon had laid on the people. They were not at war, spending their treasure to field an army. Life was good. But, the soul of the nation was rotten. The sense of security that enveloped the people was a false one. A disaster was looming unless the people turned to the Lord and allowed His love to reach their hearts. He said that He would save them, if only they would seek and follow Him.

Tragically, they did not and within 15 years of Hosea’s death, Israel entered a time of upheaval. Four kings were assassinated in succession. They became a weak and fragmented nation . In another 20 years or so, the nation was reduced to ruins by the invading Assyrians. Many who survived the invasion were scattered to slavery across the Assyrian empire!

If only Israel had listened to the love song of the Lord. If only they had paid attention to the amazing love story of Hosea.

READ Hosea 1:2-3

What an assignment for this ancient preacher. “Hosea, go marry a woman who will not be faithful to you! Your marriage will be an object lesson in front of the nation about the way they are living and my persistent love.”

We are not sure if Hosea actually married a prostitute, which the most literal reading of the text implies, or if his wife became unfaithful to him shortly after they were married. It was tragic marriage, one that had to cause everyone involved a great deal of pain. Gomer involved herself repeatedly with other men. She left Hosea and returned as her affairs brought disappointment. "She’ll go on the hunt for her lovers but not bring down a single one. She’ll look high and low but won’t find a one. Then she’ll say, ‘I’m going back to my husband, the one I started out with. That was a better life by far than this one.’" (Hosea 2:7, The Message)

The couple had two sons and one daughter. Hosea named them for their mother’s sins.

His first son he named, “Jezreel” which means depending on context-

“God scatters” or more positively, “God plants.”

His daughter he named, “Lo-Ruhamah” which means- “Not loved.”

And his last son he named, “Lo-Ammi” which means - “Not mine, or not my people.”

But as the story unfolds, we learn that even her children were not sufficient reason for her to leave her sin. She left once again, sinking into an awful life of depravity, eventually becoming a prostitute offering herself for sale. Once again, Hosea is given a tough assignment.

READ Hosea 3: 1- 3

Can you imagine that kind of love- finding your wife, the mother of your children, in a cheap brothel, paying for her, and bringing her back home? Though it is a story of sad degradation, of great pain, and ugly sin. Hosea’s love for Gomer, his wife, is a revelation of the deep and persistent love of God for His people.

This is us! Keep that in mind. How easily we forget the promises we make to God in our time of desperation. How easily some walk away from their first love, from the promise they made when they were baptized into the family of God, from the joyful newness of they find when they respond to Christ in faith.

And God’s love pursues them.

READ Hosea 2: 16-17, 19-23

Did you note the change in the names?

This is the story of God and those He created. We were made to love Him, to find life in Him, to belong exclusively to Him. But sin entered the world and broke our relationship.

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