“But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” - 1 John 4:8-10 NLT
God loved us first. Amidst an agonized, chaotic world, he takes the first step. He moves into our neighborhood. He doesn’t wait for us; he becomes one of us. When we behold the miracle of this incarnation, we are offered the supreme definition, precedent, and person of Love.
This Love fractures our every conception of love, quenches our deepest longings, and sparks us into new life. It is no simple love; it is both triumphant and lowly, fearsome and inviting, gracious and just. It kindles the cosmos into a new chorus, hailing its servant-king—a shepherd who will save his people, liberate the oppressed, and renew the earth. Star and astrologer alike are drawn with a holy gravity to this Love, wrapped in swaddling cloths in a food trough. We’ve all been desperate for this love—even if we didn’t know it. And it’s arrived!
Love as incarnation
“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us… We love each other because he loved us first.” - 1 John 4:11-12, 19 NLT
Christmas is seasonal; it arrives each year, outfitted with red hats, coupons, and sparkling lights. It’s often a mere moment, fading as festivities cease, flowers blossom, and life continues. But to behold Christ’s birth is not a seasonal or passive experience. As we perceive Love, we are called into Love.
In Christ’s birth, God demonstrates that love is not merely a matter of sweet words or acts of kindness. Love is moving in. He loves us because he lives with us, and in us—and he invites us to love similarly. In John 15, Jesus says, “Abide in my love.” When we love, we live in God and he lives in us. His love is completed, expressed, and alive in impatient, exhausted, complicated people like us.
God’s incarnation is a central moment in all of history, but it stands also as an invitation. Will we follow the incarnation, choosing this costly, active, selfless expression of love? It is our faith tradition. And when we practice the incarnation, our world will come to know that Love has moved in — and his name is Jesus. Amen.
I. God loved you first. How do you need to accept this love in this Advent season?
II. How is God’s love moving you into loving others? How can you live in and practice the love of the incarnation?