The Beatles famously sang, ‘All you need is love’ – a couple of years before they rather acrimoniously broke up.
As humans we find love a difficult word.
So often it depends on our feelings, our emotions; a bad day at the office, a rough night’s sleep, a disagreement change the way we feel.
Or it has strings attached; I love so long as it’s my way, so long as you do something for me.
Sometimes it is affected by past relationships; a parent who was distant or even abusive; a past romance that has ended bitterly.
And so we find it hard to comprehend God who is love. Independent of feelings and emotions, without strings, unaffected by the past – a constant, continual love.
John, in his great passage about God’s love, says:
This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they've done to our relationship with God.
We’re often told that the God in the Old Testament is violent, angry and demanding. But listen to what He says to Israel through Hosea:
"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her … I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithful-ness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.
It’s why I prefer the more traditional translation of John :16:
“For God so loved the world…”
There’s a sense of yearning, it tells us about the quality of God’s love.
And our response to God’s love is similar to the response given by the bridal couple at their wedding, ‘I will’.
I will allow myself to be loved unconditionally.
I will learn to love God unconditionally.
I will learn to love family, friends, neighbours and strangers unconditionally.
I will learn to love myself as I am loved by God.
It is hard to believe that Christmas will soon be upon us. This is for many a season of contrasts. We are reminded by the media and retailers, that this is the season for giving, and sharing - especially of gifts bought from them! A special time to be with family and friends. But it's those reminders of family and friends that can be particularly painful for those whose loved ones live far away and more so for those who have recently lost loved ones. For others the excitement begins to bubble. For them, this is a special season of festivity and celebration. The Winter darkness brings with it a spark of hope. A promise of newness; of new life; of Spring; warmth of Summer; of light and of joy. For Christians this season is particularly important. It is the time when we celebrate the coming of the Light. The Light, the source of all hope, the source of all life. It came not as we would have expected it, full of majesty, awe and power but clothed in innocence, frail and needing a nappy. It came as a baby, to an unmarried, young mother; obedient to the calling of God in her life. We are reminded of their journey to a dirty, dusty, inn keeper's stable. Where the pain of childbirth brought joy to the world. A child whose birth was not witnessed by nurses and doctors, but cows, sheep, shepherds, Angels and Wise men from the East. We celebrate the birth of this baby boy, not just any baby, but Immanuel,... God in human form.
God bless, Martin