What we are focusing in on in this series is the significance of Jesus’ life rather than His death and resurrection.
We are now ready to look at the third reason for Christmas.
He came to show us what love actually looks like
Love is not one of God’s attributes. He doesn’t have love; He is love (1 John 4:8). It’s part of His divine essence. From this understanding, let’s look at what the angels declared to the shepherds in the field when Jesus was born:
4 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 *)
The Greek word for “goodwill” is εὐδοκία (eudokia), which means “good will, favor, good pleasure, purpose, intention” (Mounce). The Greek word for God’s love is transliterated agape, which means benevolence (from the Latin bene volentem: to use our volition, or will, for the benefit of another).
So, God’s agape love is His other-centered good will toward us. Putting this all together, we could rightly say that the angels declared:
“And on earth, God’s other-centered, self-giving love toward men!”
This kind of unconditional and other-centered love was foreign to the Hellenistic world Jesus was born into. The Greeks wrote about eros love (erotic passion) and phileo love (deep friendship), ludus love (playful, childlike), pragma love (longstanding, mature), and philautia love (self-love), but not so much about agape love. And what Jesus showed us was that all of Scripture was summed up in this one statement about agape love:
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt.22:37-40*)
Jesus told us this because this is exactly how God loves us:
9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. (John 15:9 *)
23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23 *)
This kind of love does not wait to be loved, or for us to deserve His love. It always initiates and is unconditional and eternal.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom.5:8 *)
This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. (1 John 4:10 MSG *)
Love didn’t sent a text or post a tweet on Christmas day to tell us how He felt about us. No, He came in the most vulnerable way and lived among us, showing seeking wise men and women the way back to Himself:
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17 *)
Finally, Jesus came to define this counter-intuitive, other-centered, self-giving love in concrete everyday terms, as Paul elaborates on what this looks like when it’s working in us:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. (1 Cor.13:4-8 NIV)
We will continue this series after Christmas.