Rev. Paul J Cain
1 John 4:7-16
Love of God Made Manifest
Christmas Eve C, 24 December 2009
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen
God is love. Who doesn’t know that? Yet, many within and outside the Christian Church are at least slightly confused as to how and why God is love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
These verses of 1 John 4 may be very familiar to you. Personally, I need more. Don’t you want to know how a holy God can love sinners like us? Aren’t you curious about the connection between God’s love for you and your love for other people? John has more.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
How does God make His love known to people like you? In words, yes, but He showed it and still shows it primarily in deeds. God sent His only Son into the world. That’s Christmas. Why? So that we might live through Him. Because of the sinful human nature we inherited from Adam and Eve, our first parents, we were spiritually dead inside. Ever wonder why non-Christians don’t “get it” or why you never understood Scripture before you came to faith? That’s why. And don’t you also feel “dead inside” because of guilt after you realize you have sinned? That is your conscience reacting to “actual sin.” The Word of God that you have committed to memory and to your heart is reminding you of God’s law. Seek forgiveness as soon as possible. You need Jesus. And it’s an emergency.
What is love? Scripture says, “not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Jesus, because God so loved the world, is the atoning sacrifice for your sins. He is your substitute.
“In simple terms, a substitute takes the place of another. Everything the substitute does has the same value as if the original person does it.” It’s basketball season, right? Daniel Preus explains the concept further in this way: “Consider, for example, that you are a starter for the Lutheran Lions, who are playing basketball against the Pagan Penguins. Within the first 30 seconds of the game, you foul out and the coach puts in a substitute. The substitute plays a stellar game, and the Lutheran Lions win. The substitute’s points are counted just as if you had scored them. You don’t go home and tell your family the other team won because you fouled out. No, you announce, ‘We won! I fouled out in the first 30 seconds, but we won!’ Imagine, however, that the coach of the Pagan Penguins approached your coach after the game to inform him that the Penguins had won because the points scored by your substitute didn’t count because he was a substitute. But that isn’t how the game is played. Everybody knows that whatever the substitute does is as valid as if the original person does it… Jesus was our substitute in every way.” End quote (Why I Am a Lutheran, CPH).
Love is indeed an emotion, but so much more than an emotion. Love is shared in words but demonstrated in deeds. The so-called “Christmas spirit” seems to generate lots of loving feelings. How heartfelt can they be if so many of them evaporate by December 26th? God’s love for you in Christ Jesus is seen in sending His Son into the world on Christmas, He who would suffer and die as your substitute on Good Friday and physically rise from the dead on Easter. God further shows His love by giving His Gifts in Word and Sacrament in a place like this every Sunday. That kind of love endures forever. And nobody would want to return or exchange it!
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
How can we possibly love other people in world that is so harsh and hard at times? Because God loved us first. We love because God first loved us. We could also say that in the proper order, too: God loved us first. Because of God’s love, we love others.
In fact, when you find it hard to love others, remember this: love them with God’s love. Recycling is a good thing to do. Recycle God’s love. Give it away again. You’ll find that you’ll never run out. The Holy Spirit abides in and with His Christians forever, just as the text says.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Tonight we thank the Lord for the Savior of the world, Jesus, born to be the Christ, anointed to save His people from their sins—and that includes you!
“Our Lord speaks and we listen…Saying back to Him what He has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure…The rhythm of our worship is from Him to us, and then from us back to Him…Finally His blessing moves us out into our calling, where His gifts have their fruition.” Dr. Norman Nagel, “Introduction,” Lutheran Worship, p.6. Christians respond to the love of God in Christ through prayer, gifts, service, and song.
There are eleven “hymns” tonight, not including the three played by the bell choir, but not all of the songs in a hymnal are strictly hymns. Consider the godly variety included this Christmas Eve: Plainsong chant, Anglican Chant, a Chorale, a German Folk Hymn, a Latin hymn, a sturdy Anglican hymn, and plenty of carols. We sang hymns from the United States, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France, Italy, and have one left from Austria. One modern hymn is less than 7 years old. Another Lutheran text is only sixteen years old. Four come from the 1800’s, one from the time of the Reformation. The oldest written by a man dates back to the 4th century. One was first sung by angels on the first Christmas night.
The love of God in Christ has gone out into the world and the world has sung a response of praise, thanksgiving, and proclamation.
You have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Continue the proclamation of the love of God all year: In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.