Truly he taught us to love one another;
His law is love, and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
and in his name all oppression shall cease.
When I was growing up, my family had a tradition of reading the Christmas narrative every night on the week leading up to Christmas. Every family member got a turn in having their night to read—on your night, you could read any gospel account, in whatever translation you chose, however you wanted. When we were little, my brothers and I loved to act out the nativity story, while one of us narrated. Often towels tied around heads to emulate shepherds wasn’t elaborate enough for our performances, so we got more creative with our costumes, from taping cotton balls to faces of “sheep,” to (to my mama’s delight) lugging dead leaves from the yard into the living room to substitute “hay” for our “stable” scene. These sweet memories will always be special to me, but sticking out even clearer, is how, when it was my mom’s turn to read the Christmas story, she would always begin with the famous words: “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The way my mom always preluded the nativity story with John 3:16 left a formative impression on me. It turned the meaning of Christmas into something personal—something powerful and life-changing. God looked upon a broken world, full of broken people, and instead of being filled with anger, was filled with a fierce, action-inciting love. The Lord, in deep compassion and mercy, sent One to show the world a new law; a new covenant. And in the midst of severe political and religious upheaval, in the form of a poor little Jewish baby boy, Love became incarnate, and the stage was set for the world to be introduced to God’s new law: a law of love and a gospel of peace.
Our world today is not much different from the world God sent his only begotten son to save. Just like the days of the baby in the manger, we live in a world filled with chaos, with strife, with division, with war, with racism and hate. We are still a broken people, falling short in our love for one another. Our world desperately needs the Love that took on flesh to dwell among us just as much this Christmas as we did 2,000 years ago.
This is the meaning of Christmas: that God so loved.
Friend, we are so loved. In spite of our sin; in spite of our hate. In spite of the fact that we are still a people wrought with anger, brokenness, and burden. We have been hurt and abused and then, in turn, lash out at one another, hurting and abusing our brothers and sisters. God sees our wounded, wounding ways, and sends Love-in-the-flesh directly into our messed-up midst.
LOVE IS HERE, CHURCH. Love came down! Love took on flesh, became human, walked among us, and showed us a new law—and beckons us to put on new clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And our sweet savior, Love himself, invites us to join this movement, and take part in the work of this new law, this new covenant, and actively spread this sweet, liberating gospel of peace.
Let's ask ourselves this week, as we celebrate Love in the flesh, how we can be apart of living out God’s law of love. How can you spread a gospel of peace in your sphere of influence?