This post is the second in a four-part series of devotions celebrating Advent. The earlier post titled “Advent Devotions 2016” provides an explanation and some encouragement about how to make use of these posts.
God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” (Jeremiah 31:3).
◊ Read this verse again, and put your name in it. Can your heart hear God say, “I have loved you, __________, with an everlasting love?”
Our Need for Love
God created men and women to long for love. We come out of the womb craving, even requiring, unconditional love. As we grow, disappointments, wounds, and trauma can shut down our hope that we will ever find such love. When this happens, we may attempt to fill our need for love with some poor substitute: control, money, success, power, approval, or an addiction. It doesn’t work very well.
Picture a small plant rooted in the dirt. What does it need to grow? It needs soil and water, but it also needs exposure to the sun—a radioactive fireball so vast it could swallow 1.3 billion earths. Imagine if our plant were blocked from soaking up the gifts of the sun. We know it would wither. It might twist itself to find a scrap of artificial light, or its roots might go searching in dark places for some other source of nourishment for survival.
This is a picture of us: we require the sunlight of God’s love. Substitutes will not suffice. We need the infinite and unending love of the eternal God to make us sane, healthy, and free to be all God created us to be.
The Love of Advent
The season of Advent invites us to turn from our meager substitutes and soak up God’s love for us. We peer into the manger and see a baby—an inestimable gift of love. God, because He loves us, gave us His eternal, perfect, gloriously beautiful Son. There He lies, vulnerable and humble.
Jesus grew up and explained, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
If you love a child—a son, daughter, grandchild, niece, or nephew—is there anyone in the world you would sacrifice that child to save? Wouldn’t you have to love whoever needed saving at least as much as that infinitely precious child? Even then, and even if you knew the child you love would overcome death, could you make that choice? I don’t think I could. I sometimes look at my children and find myself thinking, “I would trade the universe—every star and particle of it—for you.”
But this is what Advent says to us about God’s love for us.
Jesus said it plainly in prayer to His Father: “you sent me and (you) love them even as you loved me,” (John 17:23). Even as. God loves us even as He loves His Son. These may be the two most beautiful words in all of Scripture.
And Jesus loved us with the same everlasting, infinite love. John says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us,” (1 John 3:16).
The baby in the manger came to die for us, for love. This love knows no equal. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13). God did the unimaginable: He loved us so much that He gave His Son to save us.
Taking Advent to Heart
◊ Picture yourself at the manger in Bethlehem, looking upon God’s gift to us.
◊ Can you hear God say to you, “For God so loved ______________ (your name) that He gave ________________ (your name) his only Son, that ____________________ (your name) should not perish but have eternal life?” (John 3:16).
◊ Prayerfully read this verse, filling in your name, several times.
◊ Take a few moments to thank God for loving you enough to give you such a gift. You may want to kneel.
A Prayer to Know More of God’s Love
Julian of Norwich said, “For we are so preciously loved by God that we cannot even comprehend it. No created being can ever know how much and how sweetly and tenderly God loves them.” The fallen human heart nearly always struggles to grasp the depths of God’s love. If you feel this is true for you today, make this your prayer every day this week of Advent:
Heavenly Father, “you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water,” (Psalm 63:1). I long to know more of your love for me. Please “pour your love into my heart through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5) so that I can open my heart to receive the love you showed through the gift of your Son—the helpless baby in the manger—with joy abounding this Christmas.