Summary: It’s Spiritually necessary for us to contemplate our journey with God and ask one simple question with huge implications. “Have I sold out my life for Jesus?”
I enjoy a Christmas Eve service. I find it ironic though that most of us perceive this service as being a quiet and reflective time. Of course Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birthday, so it’s great we have candles, but, don’t you find it kind of odd that we celebrate his birthday with a quiet and reflective moment? I think that it’s a good thing. One reason I believe we want a more quiet and reflective service on Christmas Eve is that we desire a moment of reflection in the middle of our chaos. We need to pause in the middle of our shopping, cooking, gift wrapping, concert hopping, and party going to just be quiet for a moment. But it is a birthday that we celebrate. What if your best friend decided to throw you a surprise birthday party and as you walked into the room where all your friends and family were hiding they all jumped out and whispered, “surprise!” And, then spend the next thirty minutes singing soft songs about your life and quietly, reverently and respectfully discussing your good qualities. I would find that odd. A birthday is about cake, balloons, streamers, games and ice cream, it’s a party.
So it’s a little odd to stop for a moment in the middle of the celebration, but, I also believe it’s a good thing. The fact that it might be weird kind of fits the whole them of love anyway if you think about it. Love often doesn’t make sense. This is the first thing I learn about love from the life of Jesus.
John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” God knew what was going to happen to His Son. God knows how evil and perverted this world is. He didn’t create the world this way. Our sinful nature takes everything God made and perverts it. As a father I have a difficult time with this Scripture. It’s the most well known statement in the world, but, I struggle with it. How could God do that to his own kid? I wouldn’t willingly put my kids in a dangerous place and let thugs beat the crap out of them and kill them. No sane parent would do that. On the surface this doesn’t make sense.
But God explains Himself. Almost the whole New Testament, really, is God’s explanation for why He sent Jesus to us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” For those who don’t believe in Jesus this is all foolish and silly. It would be. Love doesn’t make sense to those who don’t know Love. But for those of us who do know Love, it’s not silly and foolish, it’s power. Paul tells us in Romans 8, “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you”. So, Jesus coming into the world as God may seem stupid to the disbeliever but to me He is the power that drives my life.
The second thing I learn from Jesus about love is that love is sacrifice. I believe it’s very important for this understanding to be made clear. And that is, that just because I obey the law doesn’t mean I love the law. I obey the law because I don’t want to be punished. I go the speed limit because I don’t want a ticket not because I love the law. I think a lot of Christians have this misunderstanding about their Spiritual life. There are folks who think that if they give a few bucks, go to church when they can, are baptized, and sign up a couple of times a year on a volunteer list then, they’re OK with God. But that’s not love. That’s not sacrifice. “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son”. God is love. God shows us what love is. Love is sacrifice. Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Love is sacrifice. A genuine Jesus lover doesn’t decide what part of their life to give to God, they sell out. We all make mistakes. We all sin. Not a single person is perfect, so it’s a struggle. I know it is, I struggle with my own stuff. I can claim to love God, but, love isn’t defined by what I say, or even what I do. I can do religious stuff and not sacrifice a thing. Love is sacrifice. This is the message Jesus teaches.