Season of Love
Experiencing Christmas – Message 1
December 6, 2020
I. Introduction: We begin our Christmas series called Experiencing Christmas.
A. In this holiday series, we will focus on the emotions, the feelings, of Jesus’ arrival on earth.
- All of us are excited by the special decorations: lighted trees in the house, strings of lights on the shrubbery, wreaths with bows on the windows, social gatherings with family and friends, special gifts and favorite foods that mark this time of year.
- We feel joy, hope, happiness, anticipation, and of course, love, which includes some sadness for loved ones who have passed.
- The title for this message is Season of Love; we will focus on that aspect of Christmas.
- Season of Love is not a quote from the Bible, rather, it appears as a line from a song or a catchphrase on a Christmas card, but it is an accurate description of the atmosphere—the motivation and the result of the first Christmas, when God came to earth as a baby.
- Theme verse: Luke 2:6 (NLT)—And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.
- We think of love at Christmas because we express our affection, sincere appreciation, high value and deep concern for family members, friends, and people we care about.
- We most commonly think of love as an emotional expression, but for believers, love is better understood as a decision, an act of will, to do what is best for another person.
- Love is demonstrated by personal sacrifice for the good of another person.
- God’s love, which is much greater than our own, can be defined as “an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person;” we aspire to display that type of love also.
- God does not merely have affection for us; He has decided, He wills, to achieve our good for His glory, to display His nature and character.
- APP.: Have you experienced God’s love? Christmas is a good time to start!
II. God’s love is…
A. #1 - Expressed through the incarnation. (Matthew 1:22-23; John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 4:9-10)
- Incarnation literally means, “the act of being made flesh.” (John 1:14)
- Jesus became human through a normal human birth.
- Matthew 1:22–23 (NLT)—22All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through His prophet: 23“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
- The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, took on humanity, but without sacrificing His divinity; He became fully man, yet remained fully God.
- Jesus, the God-man, had two natures—human and divine—united in one Person.
- This is referred to in theology as the hypostatic [PUT UP] union: two distinct natures existing in one in one person without mixture or dilution (loss) of either nature.
- Jesus did not sacrifice His deity, His God-ness; He was not conceived or born into sin, like we are, because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:34-35)
- 1 John 4:9-10 (NLT)—God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. 10This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. [Love is selfless, one-sided, not a trade-off.]
- Why was this an act of love? Because God the Father conceived of God the Son becoming human to serve our needs, not to serve His. (John 3:16)
- The deliberate love of God was dramatically expressed through the incarnation because Jesus gave up His equality with God and His divine privileges (His position and power as God; Philippians 2:6-8) to become human.
- As a human, He could identify with us by experiencing our struggles and weaknesses, even our temptations, but without sinning. (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15)
- Jesus did experience our sin, become our sin, then received the punishment due our sin, so we could be forgiven and receive His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- He had to be human so He could suffer physically and die on the cross, in our place, to pay the penalty for our sins. (Philippians 2:7-8; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18)
- The incarnation pained the Father because it meant the separation of the Father and Son, since the Son left heaven for earth, but it also meant, in a more excruciating way, the sacrifice, the suffering, the death of His Son.
- When we show love—perhaps by giving gifts at Christmas—there is often an unspoken, perhaps unacknowledged, expectation of receiving a gift of love in return.
- God’s love is entirely others-focused; He didn’t benefit personally from the incarnation, it caused Him agony.
- Romans 5:8 (NLT)—But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
- He didn’t send His son because we deserved it, but rather because we needed it.
- He gave what we needed—forgiveness—through a priceless gift, a gift too wonderful for words! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
- APP.: Do you understand that Jesus’ coming at Christmas was an expression of God’s love for you? How does that make you feel?
God’s love is…
B. #2 - Extended through salvation. (Matthew 1:20-21; Luke 2:10-11,30-32; 1 John 4:13-19)
- For God’s love to be real, it must be truly received and experienced practically, tangibly.
- Matthew 1:20–21 (NLT)—20As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21And she will have a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
- The angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds in the fields outside of Bethlehem (Luke 2:11) declared that Jesus would save people from their sins.
- Eight days later, at the Temple, a righteous, devout, man referred to Jesus as God’s salvation (Luke 2:30) prepared for all people (Luke 2:31).
- God’s love was expressed through the Incarnation, but it was extended to us practically through our personal, tangible, individual, receipt of salvation.
- Jesus was sent, not merely to teach, or lead, or even model faith; He was sent to save!
- Salvation is deliverance from danger or suffering; it includes the ideas of victory, protection, preservation.
- Salvation may refer to temporal, physical, rescue (Greek sōtēria; Philippians 1:19), but more often, it concerns eternal, spiritual, deliverance (Greek sōzō; Acts 16:30-31) and entering the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24-25)
- We are saved from the wrath of God, from His judgment of sin (Romans 5:9; 1Thessalonians 5:9) and the resulting eternal separation from Him.
- Our sin has separated us from God; our salvation allows us to become His children (John 1:12; Galatians 4:4-5) by delivering us from the consequence and the control of sin.
- Through salvation, we know the love of God (not information, experience).
- 1 John 4:16 (NLT)—We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.
- Knowing God’s love for us enables us to believe His promises of forgiveness and eternal life; our ability to trust God grows as we experience intimacy with Him.
- 1 John 4:17-18 (NLT)—17And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment,… 18Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.
- APP.: Do you fear facing God? Are you afraid that He will reject you?
- 1 John 4:19 (NLT)—We love each other because He loved us first.
God’s love is…
C. #3 - Evidenced by love for others. (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 John 4:7-8,11-12,20-21)
- When we experience God's love, it enables us to show love to God, but also to others.
- 1 John 4:7–8 (NLT)—7Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. [APP.: Do you love?]
- Why don’t we love? Our own insecurity, lack of self-worth, fear of rejection, anger from past wounds, prevent us from experiencing the vulnerability that love requires.
- When we haven’t experienced love, unconditional acceptance, we won’t be able to show love because we will be closed off, distant, self-protective, to prevent anyone reaching and reinjuring the wounded, sensitive, parts of us that have experienced rejection.
- When we are loved by God—and we know it, we will feel so self-assured in our identity, our value, to we will extend ourselves to love other, even though it exposes us to possible pain.
- 1 John 4:11–12 (NLT)—11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.
- Being able to love, even if not loved in return, is evidence of our faith.
- If we are unloving toward others, it indicates that we have not experienced the love of God—at least not fully; it might mean that we have not been born again. (1 John 4:20-21)
- True God-like love is sacrificial; it gives and demands nothing be given in return.
- John 15:13 (NLT)—There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
- APP.: Does your love for other people show that you have experienced God’s love?
Call Care volunteers to stage front and Care Connection room across concourse.
Spiritual practice: Ask God to help you understand how much He loves you.
Memory verse: 1 John 4:9 (NLT)—God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.