One of my favorite verses for Christmas is 1 John 4:9 “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” – ESV
I love that phrase. God’s love was made manifest among us. One of the greatest challenges I’ve found in building relationships with orphans is that orphan children lack manifestations of love in their lives. This makes it difficult for them to really trust that someone loves them when they say they do. There was a book I loved to read growing up titled White Fang. The book followed the life of a dog named White Fang, who was half husky and half wolf. White Fang lives with several different owners in the book. The first couple mistreat the animal badly. White Fang is abused and mistreated until he’s almost killed in a dog fight put on by one of his owners. At this event, a new man comes and assumes ownership of White Fang. The new owner is kind and gentle. He starts trying to build a relationship with White Fang. But White Fang doesn’t trust anyone. So, even when the new owner is feeding him daily and speaking kind words to him, White Fang doesn’t allow the man to touch him. In fact, he even bites the man the first time he tries to pet White Fang. It’s an illustration of how difficult it can be for some of us to accept or trust that someone loves us. This makes the message of God’s love, especially in the Christmas season, harder to drive home. Our children hear about the love of Christ all of the time. We teach from the bible every single day. But love in word doesn’t mean anything, if there’s no action to substantiate the words. That’s why that verse sums up the Christmas season so well. John points out that God only had the one son. He didn’t have 7-8 and just decided one of them was expendable. He had one “beloved” son. And yet he still sent that only son. That is action that proves the word. For some of us though, even action doesn’t melt away the hardness of our hearts right away. It’s as if we have shut off the ability to receive and reciprocate love. It’s a sad thing for the others to see who are basking in the joy and peace of God’s love everyday. My heart goes out to the ones who’ve been hurt so much that they won’t allow themselves to feel love. But, I also tell you, it’s your own choice to live without love. The love of God has been extended to you. The bible says Jesus died to pay for the sins of ANY man who believes in him. The bible also says that God is not willing that any should perish. So, the action has already been done and the word is promised to anyone who will have it. Probably the most amazing story of forgiveness in the bible is from the life of King Manasseh. In his introduction, he’s described as an incredibly evil king. He worships false gods, he kills and sacrifices his own sons as offerings to a false god, and according to Jewish historical tradition, he even executed God’s prophet Isaiah by means of sawing him in half. If any man did things deserving to be hated by God, it was Manasseh. But later we find God brings judgement on Manasseh by way of invading foreign armies. When Manasseh is in trouble, he calls out to God for deliverance and he humbles himself and repents for his wickedness. And God forgives Manasseh and he doesn’t bring judgement on the kingdom of Judah again until after Manasseh has died. The love of God would much rather receive you than punish you. Read the bible from cover to cover and over and over you will see the words about God’s character that say he desires mercy over judgement and mercy triumphs over judgement. And God keeps sending his messengers to you. Messengers that will leave home and country and try to learn a new language and new culture and learn to laugh at what you find funny and play the games you like to play and take up hobbies that you enjoy and do anything and everything to get you to just listen to them testify how much God loves people. This Christmas, if you live without love, it’s you who’ve chosen to do so, for God is love.