Can you believe it? We have reached December already! Of course, this means Christmas draws near again with all its tender associations and its significantly powerful meaning. When we consider the saddening spectacle of a war-scarred, sin-strangled, 21st-century world – it’s good to reflect again with simple hearted gratitude on the wonder of wonders in that text of texts – the most well know verse in the Bible – John chapter 3 verse 16. This verse of around just 25 words long has such vast depth and meaning. It succinctly sums up not only the Christmas incarnation but indeed the whole gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ….
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
Note again how it says ‘He gave His only begotten Son…’ The extent of anyone’s love is always measured by their willingness to give and their capacity for sacrifice. This is certainly true of the love of God. His love is revealed in His giving and when explored is surely seen to be a love beyond all measure.
If we are to measure the love of God we must undoubtedly measure it, not only by the incarnation of Christ when He first came as a babe, but quantify it also by Calvary and His death and Resurrection, by what He accomplished for each and every one of us on the cross. You see the story of Christmas is not a stand alone event and neither is the story of Golgotha. They are both very much part of the same package – both sides of the same coin. They are both intrinsically linked as the two key elements of God’s great plan of Salvation for the whole of mankind. Either one simply doesn’t make any sense without the other. Christ’s work at Calvary is the very reason He came to planet earth in the first place – ‘to save His people from their sins’, as Matthew’s gospel chapter 1 v 21 tells us.
The fact is we shall never take in the true love of God this side of heaven. We will never take in the true cost of Calvary, our finite hearts and minds simply just can’t grasp it all. The best we can do is fall back on that incredible grammatical particle, the word ‘so’. Such a small word with such vast, vast profoundness. ‘God so loved the world… that He gave His only begotten Son’.
And we know, such is the oneness of the Father and the Son, that in giving the Son, the Father gave Himself – for indeed ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself’ (2 Corinthians 5 v 19). Let us not forget that the Lord Jesus is not merely an agent through whom God sends out the message that He loves us. Jesus Christ is God Himself who actually came to earth loving us. He does not merely declare or expound the love of God. He is the love of God incarnate. As the apostle John put it in his gospel, ‘God who became flesh and dwelt among us’.
But back to that all-important grammatical particle ‘So’ – what adverbs may we unite this with? Maybe, God so loved the world ‘so fully’, ‘so freely’, ‘so sublimely’, ‘so amazingly’. Yet when we look at the latter part of this particle ‘so’ in those words, ‘that He gave His only begotten Son’. And when we ponder and reflect on that mysterious fact that Father willingly gave up the eternal Son not only to the indescribable woe of dying on the cross, but to also incorporate our human nature itself into His divine being by having a real human birth, it becomes even more remarkable. In doing so Jesus became the Son of Man for evermore as well as being God the Son and we begin to realise that ‘God loved us unutterably…’ It’s here that language and human vocabulary break down. Just like the Apostle Paul we are lost for words, all he could say was, ‘thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift…’! Now we can begin to understand why the hymn writer penned those beautiful words ‘Love Divine, all loves excelling’. As he reflects on the inexpressible love of God he speaks about simply being ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’.
So as Christmas draws near yet again, let us ensure in our thinking that we never separate or even begin to isolate the happenings at Bethlehem from the happenings at Calvary. The cradle and the cross are inseparable, they are both vitally important – one leads to the other. Apart from the incarnation there would have been no atonement and apart from the atonement the incarnation would never have taken place. And apart from the infinite love of God neither would have happened!
Orion and the breath-taking planet system may look beautiful and awesome to us in their flaming magnificence and immensity. We might well wonder about the creator who threw them into space. The wonders of creation might well leave us speechless and in awe of their Creator but the greatest thing we know about the Creator is just this… “For God ‘SO’ loved the world…that He gave His only begotten Son”!
You know when we reflect on the immense and even limitless love of God should we not join with that other prolific hymn writer and exclaim, ‘love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life my all!’
This indeed is the wonder of Christmas, the Creator being born to become my Saviour. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
Have a wonderful December and a Christ-filled Christmas.
Pastors Phil and Helen Weaver