Summary: God's gift of love in the person of His Son is an example of how we are to love others.
This morning we are going to begin by playing a little game called “Name That Christmas Song.” I’ll read a phrase from a well-known holiday song, and you try to “name that tune”:
• We’re snuggled up together like two birds of a feather would be. (“Sleigh Ride”)
• When we finally kiss goodnight, how I’ll hate going out in the storm. But if you really hold me tight, all the way home I’ll be warm. (“Let It Snow”)
• Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree won't be the same, dear, if you’re not here with me. (“Blue Christmas”)
• Please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree. (“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”)
• In the meadow we can build a snowman and pretend that he is Parson Brown. He’ll say are you married, we’ll say no man. But you can do the job when you’re in town. (“Winter Wonderland”)
Okay, if you couldn’t get any of those, here is one all of us can get. Hint: The song title is the same as the lyrics!
• All I want for Christmas is you. (“All I Want for Christmas Is You”)
Do you notice a theme here? Most of us would probably consider Valentine’s Day to be the holiday of love, but apparently Christmas isn’t far behind. In fact, in a recent study, researchers found that December is actually the most popular month for couples to get engaged with Christmas Eve being the most popular day to pop the question, followed by Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and then - in fourth place – Valentine’s Day.
It is certainly appropriate to focus on and celebrate love during this season. After all, as we’ll see this morning, Christmas is first of all the story of God’s love for us. But we need to make sure that mistletoe and cuddling in front of a fireplace or going on a romantic sleigh ride, as great and enjoyable as those experiences might be, don’t blind us to what real love is all about.
Last week we began our journey through the season of Advent. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival” and it is a time that is marked by expectation, waiting and anticipation as we share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah and longingly wait for His second coming.
Last week we began this season by unwrapping the gift of hope, and we lit the first candle on our Advent wreath to help remind us of that gift. [Light hope candle]. Hopefully you’ll remember that Christmas is a time of confident expectation that covers my past sins, allows me to live a godly life in the present and overcomes my fears about the future.
This morning, as we unwrap the second gift of Christmas, we light the second candle on our wreath – the candle of love. [Light love candle].
Once again, we’re going to unwrap this gift by taking a look at a “non-traditional” Christmas passage in the Bible. So go ahead and turn to 1 John, chapter 4. You can follow along as I being reading in verse 7:
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. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.