Part Two of a four-part series exploring the weeks of Advent: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. Read Part 1, Hope, here.
Last week, we began the Advent season by seeing how the birth of Christ brings hope to mankind. This week, our focus is on the love shown through the advent of Jesus. While we know that God is love (1 John 4:8), let’s look more closely at just a couple of ways in which the coming of Christ demonstrates that love.
The Promise-Fulfilling Love of God
Matthew’s genealogy is a section of the birth narrative that we often skip over. After all, it’s just a list of names. The story of Jesus being born is what really matters, right? Wrong. In fact, Matthew’s genealogy is designed to show that the birth of Christ is the result of God fulfilling His promises to Israel. He summarizes this entire point in verse 1:
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1)
In using these names, Matthew connects Jesus to two covenants that his Jewish readers would have been very familiar with: the Abrahamic covenant and the Davidic covenant. He then demonstrates that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of these covenants. God promised to bless the whole earth through Abraham’s lineage. That promise is fulfilled in Christ, who brought the good news of the gospel to the world. God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever. That promise is fulfilled in Christ, who came from David’s line to reign over Israel, and all creation, forever. Matthew proves, through the genealogy of Christ, that God has not abandoned His people, but has instead fulfilled His promises to them because of His great love.
We can’t leave the genealogy without noting one more thing: this family tree of Jesus is filled with potential disasters: Judah and Tamar, a relationship built on deceit and sin. David and Bathsheba, a marriage formed in adultery and murder. Exile to Babylon, a temple destroyed, and a people captive in enemy territory. Yet, through all of these sinful choices and their consequences, God’s promise persevered. This is the love demonstrated in the advent of Christ. In spite of their sin and rebellion, God showed His love for Israel by fulfilling His covenants in the birth of Christ.
The Sacrificial Love of God
The advent of Christ reveals the sacrificial love of God. Consider 1 John.
“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)
John writes extensively on the love of God. Here, he explains to his readers that the coming of Christ is the revelation of God’s love for mankind. This love goes beyond the manger, however, and takes us to the cross. This love is a sacrificial love. God’s love was revealed among us in that God sent His son for the purpose of dying in place of us. Recognize the sacrifices that took place here.
1) Christ left heaven and came to Earth. He left His place of glory in order to take on flesh. He knew hunger and thirst. He knew fatigue. He knew betrayal and torture. The King of creation left His throne to suffer these things as a man in order that His love might be shown.
2) Christ sacrificed His life. The One who has existed eternally laid down His life so that we could live. He did not die peacefully, but violently and cruelly. He took upon Himself all of the punishment and suffering that each of us deserves because of our rebellion against our King. This was the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate expression of His love. As Jesus Himself said,
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
These are sacrifices that we struggle to fully understand or appreciate, but they are the revelation of God’s love for His people. This love is not small or selfish. It is great and sacrificial.
Imagine that you really, really love ants. (A stretch, I know, but someone has to love ants, right?) Imagine that you love ants so much that you wish you could save them from heavy rain coming tomorrow that will likely wash their mounds away. Given the opportunity, would you leave behind your family, your possessions, your rational human mind and opposable human thumbs and become an ant in hopes of warning them about the coming rain? What if you knew that most of the ants would hate you, reject your warning, and eventually murder your ant self? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect none of us would be willing to go that far. This, however, is what Christ did for us, and this is still a poor example. Leaving heaven’s glory to enter a sinful world cannot compare to leaving a human life to become an ant. This is the measure of Christ’s sacrificial love for His people.
The notes in this article could never come close to explaining the love of God, but hopefully they give you something to meditate on this Christmas season. The advent of Christ reveals the promise-keeping love of God. It reveals the sacrificial love of God. It reveals a God who extends forgiveness and eternal life to those who respond in faith to the Son. If you are a Christ-follower, remind yourself of His love for you this season. If not, what better time to be reconciled to your Creator?