Wednesday, December 17, 2014

God's Good Gifts - Love

The story of Christmas is a love story. No matter which of the lead characters in the story you look at, all were motivated and challenged by love.

            Mary was all set to begin her life as the wife of Joseph and, no doubt, had dreams of the way her life would unfold. Gabriel’s announcement to her that she would become the mother of the Messiah was a shocking surprise. Quickly Mary decided to accept the will of God for her life and all the changes it would entail. For Mary, love complicated her life. She had to tell her parents about the encounter with the angel and the news of the pregnancy. That was, without doubt, an awkward conversation. Then she had to figure out a way to tell Joseph. Imagine asking someone to believe a story that you could hardly believe yourself! Though love was complicated, Mary said “Yes” and she learned the invaluable lesson that love cooperates.

            Joseph was devastated when heard that Mary was pregnant. He learned in that moment that love can create a heavy strain in a life. He hurt so bad that he could not continue his plan to marry her, but he cared too much to harm her, so he decided to divorce her quietly. He was torn by the strain of choosing from two bad options, and no matter what he chose he would not find happiness! It was after reaching this painful decision that he dreamed of an angel bringing him a message strikingly similar to the claim of Mary. When he awoke, the strain dissipated and his decision changed; he took Mary home as his wife and he agreed to raise the child of God! Joseph learned that love cooperates.

            God remained on his heavenly throne as his son became flesh and dwelt among us. In sending Jesus, the Father allowed the creator to become the creature, with all the limitations that entails. But the Father did not personally suffer the limitations of humanity, rather he suffered the separation of the trinity – what had never been divided was separated. It must have been a painful experience on either side of the divide! The father entrusted the son to a young woman and her husband who had no previous experience in parenthood. That was a risky venture, to say the least. God proved the truth of the meaning of love – love gives! “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son!”

            Jesus willingly left divinity behind and became a man. No one can fully understand that statement, except Jesus. Paul tries to explain what it was like with these words: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8) Thirty years after the long awaited birth of Jesus, that baby born in Bethlehem became a powerful prophet who said: “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) It’s what love does. Nothing else comes close!

This Christmas – and everyday – thank God for his amazing love. And then show it to others…

- Kenny Payne

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