Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras Love 1 John 4
December 20, 2024, Sunday of Advent
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, amen. The love of God is very pure, sincere, sacrificial, and perfect. The apostle John describes God as love, which means the definition of love is God. To understand love, you need to turn to God. To learn about love, you need to know about Jesus Christ. To be a loving person, you need to be in fellowship with God through Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel of John 3:16, the evangelist John says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." This sacrificial love does not have any self-interest because God has your best interest at heart. God's love took the form of a baby in all his fragility and innocence. The incarnation of God, the Son, reveals the depth of God's love for you. In the crib, we contemplate God made a human being for you. Immanuel, God is with us to sustain and strengthen you in every moment of your life.
The apostle John teaches that "those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them." The verb abide means to dwell or live, which indicates those who have fellowship with God, God lives in their hearts. You and God form a union of love, so both of you become inseparable. Your Christian identity is rooted in God's essence of love. John talks about the kind of love that is rooted in your faith and your experience with God. This love is not based on your emotions. Because of this, John says, "So we have known and believe the love that God has for us."
This love is perfect and complete and helps you in the day of judgment. That perfect love removes all doubts and assures you of your salvation, and makes you bold in the day of judgment. When you stand before Christ's seat of judgment, you will have no fear because this perfect love casts out your fears. "That perfect love produces courage in the day of judgment because it produces likeness to Christ, who is the Judge." If you have perfect love for God, you will have no fear of anything, even death. It is a sin that makes people fear what is to come.
God's love for you is perfect and genuine. Some somehow feel that if God loved them, God would never allow them to experience pain. This statement is not true. The best example I have is my parent's love for me. My parents' love is tough, strong, and yet tender and unrelenting. Without their love, I would not become who I am today. God's love is similar to my parents' love but more profound and more significant.
Today Advent reminds us of God's love that lights the darkness of our lives. This candle of love is a symbol of God's desire to make God's home in your heart and to eliminate darkness. This candle of love reminds us that Jesus came in the darkest moment of the Jews' lives as they were traumatized and oppressed by the Romans' military occupation of Palestine. Christ revealed his perfect love in ministering to the oppressed and challenging the religious leaders who complied with the Romans' oppression and neglected the true meaning of the law and prophets.
God's love's ultimate manifestation was when God allowed the Romans to crucify Jesus on the cross. Jesus voluntarily and with sincere love, accepted to take your place on the cross. God's steadfast love is there for you, no matter what happens in your life. This perfect love encourages you and me to not only persevere in difficult times but actually to live our faith more boldly.
In this Advent, we encounter God's amazing love in Christ that inspires "of all the love that stirs in our hearts. It awakens within us an answering love—a grateful love for Him [God] manifesting itself in love for our brethren [sisters and brothers]." My question for you is, how are you expressing your love to God and your neighbor in Advent and Christmas season? Let me share the Christmas version of the apostle letter to1 Corinthians 13, which describes love.
1 CORINTHIANS 13—CHRISTMAS VERSION
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny balls; but do not have love, I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime; but do not have love, I'm just another cook.
If I work at a soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity; but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels, and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir's cantata; but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love does not envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens. Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who cannot. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails. Toys will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.