Summary: With humanity so confused about love, who is to say what love is? The answer is God! It has accurately been said that "love does not define God, but God defines love." So it is important that we dig a little deeper into this passage to
God Is Love
For many, the Christmas season is a period of dread. The days are getting shorter, decorations need to be hung, parties attended or prepared for, homes cleaned, shopping to be done and presents to be wrapped. All this under the countdown of the clock which reminds Christmas is looming and time is running short. Christmas for many, rather than being a season of peace, joy and love, becomes a period of mounting misery as the seasonal blitz draws nearer. A recent survey of more than 1500 people showed that Christmas comes second only to financial problems at the top of everyone’s stress and worry list. Christmas, when it comes, is traditionally a season of love, peace and joy, of family reunions, of friendship and generosity, a time when we want to feel good and look great, instead is marked by increased stress, short fuses, tempers flaring, and self-centeredness as everybody tries to get what they want.
In midst of all of this, Shane Claiborne writes, “I am incredibly hopeful this Advent, because there are so many signs of Christians who are longing for new ways to celebrate our Savior that are not cluttered with the noise of shopping and infected with the myth that happiness must be purchased. On the biggest shopping day of the year ("Black Friday"), a bunch of us here in Philly headed to the Gallery Mall to exorcise the demons of the Shopocalypes and to heal the disease of Affluenza. Dozens of joyful, singing, dancing, liberated consumers converged on the mall to invite people to re-imagine the season. With messages of "Love doesn't cost a thing," "Spend time not money," and "Buy less and love more," the celebration was magnetic. One woman passing by (shopping bag in hand) stopped and said pensively, "Why do we do this empty routine every year? Thanks for making me think." Sometimes we just need permission to say "NO" to the 450 billion shopping dollars spent during this holiday, and to remember the poor, the refugees, the invisible people abused all over the world making the products we buy in the name of the one born in the manger.” Maybe this Christmas we need to really sit down and think what we really need for Christmas.
The first thing we need this Christmas is for us to love one another, not as the world loves but as God call us to love. The very concept of love is one of the most permeating themes in modern society. The Beatles sang about in the sixties. Their message to a hurt and frightened world was, "love is all you need." According to Amazon.com, there are at least 32,507 books currently in print with the word "love" in the title (over 145,000 that deal with the subject of love) and over 11,000 popular albums/CDs with "love" in the title. If you were to do a google-search on the internet, you’d discover at least 121,000,000 web-sites that that use the word "love" as one of their key words. It is unmistakable, how important love is to our culture -- to people in general. But with all this information available, love has become a very confusing subject. When I watch TV, check the internet, or scan magazines in the checkout lines, it’s clear that our society has a very poor understanding of love. Love is about passion, romance and fun. Love is about what you receive and not what you give. Love is about what you feel and not what you do. Much that is called "love" in modern society bears no resemblance or relationship to the holy, spiritual love of God.
With humanity so confused about love, who is to say what love is? The answer is God! It has accurately been said that "love does not define God, but God defines love." So it is important that we dig a little deeper into this passage to discover what God’s love really is. John indicates four characteristics of God’s love in these verses. First, God’s love is personal. Verses 7-8: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." The overriding notion of these two verses is that the love of God is personal. God’s love causes us to know Him, and Him to know us. One of the most powerful messages that we can take to people today is that God loves them. Every individual person is important to God, and He loves each one. G.K. Chesterton understood this truth when he said, "All people matter. You matter. I matter. It’s the hardest thing in theology to believe." God loves you and He knows everything about you. God’s love for us is personal. Jesus illustrated this again when He said, "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep" (John 10:14-15). The image of shepherding is lost on many American’s today, but when Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem, shepherding was as common as farming is in this part of the country. One of the outstanding characteristics of good shepherds was that they knew each one of their sheep by sight and often by name. And so Jesus says, "I know My own." God’s love is universal, but it is also individual. As Augustine put it, "He loves each one of us, as if there were only one of us." The first characteristic of God’s love is that it is personal.