December 24, 2023 / Fourth Sunday of Advent
11:00 a.m. Worship
Love: The Greatest Gift
Luke 1:26-38 / Romans 16:25-27
Today is Christmas Eve! The celebration of the birth of the Christ child inches ever closer, and we anxiously await the sound of angels’ wings, the sounding joy, the peace, and the hope brought in a bundle of swaddling clothes.
We remember and celebrate the appearance of the Angel Gabriel who reveals the most fascinating revelation to come to humanity through Mary, the one favored by God to bear such a gift.
Our story this morning is “A Birthday Party for Jesus,” by Susan Jones.
In our story today, Little Bunny receives an invitation to a birthday party for Jesus, a very special birthday party indeed. Like Little Bunny, we all receive an invitation to be with Jesus, and today, let’s consider, what do we have to bring to Jesus?
Like Little Bunny, do we dream of bringing material things to Jesus, like toys? Or something more special than any material gift? What dreams do we have when we imagine ourselves going to Jesus’ birthday party?
Let’s ponder a moment as we reflect on scripture and consider lessons we learn in the birth of Jesus.
First, we can recognize that we were created in love by love by God in the creation story. Jesus was there from the beginning. We learn that God keeps his promises, and Jesus is the Messiah. The story of the birth of Christ is a vivid reminder of the depth of God’s love for us, a love so great and unconditional that God comes to us in human form in the person of Jesus.
Jesus teaches us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Love of all people was at the very center of Jesus birth and his message in life.
Throughout his ministry here on earth, Jesus showed His love for others by blessing and serving the poor, the sick, and the distressed, and told his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
When asked by one of the scribes which commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied, “The most important one is this, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength…and the second is love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12)
1 Corinthians reminds us that “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth.”
Jesus came with the purest example of love, and showed us that love is not simply an emotion, but an act of will. We can choose to spread hatred or we can choose to show kindness. We can choose to go to war, or we can choose a path toward peace. Rather than fear, we can embrace hope and faith. We can hold tight to all that we have, or we can be charitable. We choose whether our actions speak love, the same action of love that Jesus displayed in his life.
Jesus showed love through compassion and healing. Throughout his ministry, Jesus showed deep compassion for people and demonstrated God’s love through healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and caring for the marginalized. God’s love spoke through the miracles of Jesus, and they can still speak through us today. Jesus calls on us to engage in loving others, just as he loved us.
Jesus came with a sacrificial love because he loved us, because God loved us enough to save us from ourselves. We’ve all been separated from God, and the reason it is so important that we celebrate Jesus’ birth is to remember that Jesus came to restore our relationship with God so that we may rest in the eternal home we talked about last week, and this eternal home begins here on earth.
We cannot deny that because God became flesh in Jesus, God knows life exactly as we know it…every pain, every tear, every aspect. Emmanuel, God is truly with us. This is the good news we celebrate at Jesus’ birthday party.
Through Jesus, God is able to strengthen us and bring out our obedience to faith, so that we know the God of Love in the most intimate relationship. In God’s new covenant with us, God shows us a love that is unfailing, unrestricted, steadfast and productive.
To God be the glory forever!
So what gift will you bring to Jesus? Little Bunny’s friends brought kindness, honesty, hope, peace, faith, charity, friendship, and mercy. Little Bunny, however, brought the greatest gift of all, he brought love, and from this love, all other gifts brought by his friends are given to us. Might we do the same this Christmas eve as we await the coming hour of the birthday of Jesus?