“For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
I don’t know about you, but this has been a powerful Advent journey this year. It has been for me a time to reflect deeply on the coming of Christ into the world and into our lives. It has filled me with a renewed hope in His return one day to complete His work that began in a stable. None of our reflections over the past month have been on passages that were at all unfamiliar. But in spending time with words we’ve read and studied before, we have discovered deeper truths that affirm even more powerfully just how great is our God. This morning as we bring this journey to a close (tomorrow will be a special Christmas Eve edition of our Songs of the Season series), I want us to land on the most important Gospel truth of all. Let us ponder for a moment together just how great is the love of our God.
Nicodemus went to Jesus in secret. He was interested in the ideas Jesus was proclaiming, but didn’t want his interest to be known publicly. He had a certain reputation to uphold given his position in the culture and losing that would have been devastating. So, perhaps through a well-paid agent, he set up a meeting with Jesus in the middle of the night. Their conversation ran long and wide. Mostly, though, Jesus told Nicodemus about the coming kingdom of God and the need to be born again in order to enter it.
Suffice to say for now, this was all a stretch for Nicodemus’ great mind to comprehend. Jesus was using words and concepts that were perhaps familiar by themselves, but which when combined as Jesus combined them, were unlike anything he had ever heard before. Jesus poked just a bit of fun at him, but finally started to boil things down to their simplest elements so that Nicodemus could process them in the direction of faith. Ultimately, He used a rather obscure story from the Law to illustrate what God’s plans for Him were.
“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” This was a reference to a time when, as an act of judgment against Israel in the wilderness, God let loose a pit of poisonous snakes in their midst. The people begged Moses for relief and so God directed him to construct a bronze snake. The snake was to be placed on a high pole that was raised above all the people. Anyone who looked up at the snake, would be healed of their bites. The story itself is bizarre and worthy of a whole reflection at another time, but the point Jesus was making was that if the people were willing to look up to Him in faith, they would be saved.
Far from being simply an act of relief from judgment, though, Jesus’ coming and eventual departure were all part of God’s greatest expression of His love for His people. More than that, they were His greatest expression of His love for the whole world. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
When God the Son entered the world as the baby Jesus, He came as God’s love letter to the world. He came in humility and was raised in obscurity, but His impact would transform the entire world. As you prepare to celebrate His birth, don’t miss this crucial truth: He came for you. He came so that you can have eternal life. He came because God’s love for you is so great that He was not willing for you to be separated from Him a single second longer than was necessary, even if that reconciliation would cost Him dearly. As you celebrate, then, make sure that you don’t receive only the gifts that are under the tree. Receive God’s greatest gift and live the life that is truly life. Merry Christmas to you.