St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Love Is What Christmas Is All About

Christmas Eve sermon on 1 John 3:1

Text: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

If you were to pick one emotion that expresses Christmas, what would it be? Some might say “Joy.” After all, we have the beloved Christmas hymn, “Joy to the World.” Joy fills our hearts at Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Others might say the “Peace” best expresses the emotions of Christmas. It would be hard to argue with that answer. After all, peace was a part of the angels’ song that the shepherds heard that first Christmas night. They sang out, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14) However, I would like to submit another emotion that describes Christmas. If it was not present, the other emotions of the peace and joy of Christmas would not exist. The emotion that best describes Christmas is love. Love is what Christmas is all about.

The apostle John highlights this emotion in our text and the theme of our service this evening. He said, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” John is awestruck by the love of God. He loves us so much that we are called the children of God. The reason for this amazement is the fact that, by nature, there is absolutely nothing about is that is lovable. The reason for this is the fact that we are all sinners. We were born that way. We show evidence of this all the time. Every single time that we have been angry with someone, that was a sin. Every time that we were selfish, that was a sin. There are many words that have come out of our mouths that should not have. There are the times when we have torn others down, rather than defending them and speaking well of them. The list of our sins is endless. Because of these sins, we do not deserve to be called the children of God. Instead, we deserve to spend our eternity apart from God.

Yet, in spite of our sinfulness, God chose to love us. That is what is different about the love of people and the love of God. We love things that are attractive to us. There is something about that person that makes us feel good. God doesn’t love that way. He chooses to love us, who are, by nature, unlovable. God doesn’t just say that he loves us. He puts his love into action. John writes later in his First Epistle, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) It is this love that we celebrate this evening. God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world that first Christmas to save us from our sins. Jesus, who is the Son of God, left his throne in heaven to be born that night in Bethlehem. He came to the earth to do everything necessary to rescue us from our situation. He became a human being so that he could serve as our Substitute. Throughout his life, he continually followed his Father’s will. He was perfectly loving. He showed care and concern for those who were in need. He spoke the truth in love to all. He did all of this in our place.

Then, in the ultimate show of love, God sacrificed his Son on the cross for our sins. The apostle Paul tells us, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Just think about that for a moment. See how much God loved us. He chose to love us in spite of the fact that we were sinners. He chose to love us so much that he was willing to punish his own Son on the cross to pay for all of our sins. As a result of Jesus’ work, we have been forgiven. Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning to assure us that our debt to God has been paid in full. When we ponder this thought, we can stand side by side with John in awe of the amazing love of God. This all happened so that we might become the children of God.

This is what John is speaking about in our text for this evening. He says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” When you hear the Christmas story, you know that it is a story of God’s amazing love. When you hear about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, you cannot help but be in awe of God’s love. God loved you so much, he lavished his love on you, that you are called a child of God. John almost seems to be anticipating shock, because he continues, “And that is what we are!” You are not just an acquaintance of God. You are not just a friend of God. You are not even a distant cousin. You, through the faith that he creates in your heart, are a part of God’s family. You are God’s own child. This is all true because of God’s amazing love.

It is because of this love that we have the peace of Christmas. There is the peace that that angels sang about on the first Christmas Eve: peace between God and us. Our sins have been forgiven. When God looks at us, he sees his dearly oved children. With this comes the peace in knowing that our heavenly Father will take care of us every single day. He has promised to provide for all that we need. He will protect us and will make everything that happens to us work out for our benefit. We, also, have the peace of heaven to look forward to. All that makes life difficult here on this earth will be gone. We will live in perfect peace for all eternity. In addition, we have the motivation to live in peace with those around us. God was willing to love us so much that he did everything in his power to bring peace into our lives. Out of love for him, we want to do everything in our power to live in peace with those around us. We have peace.

It is also the love of God that brings about Christmas joy. Honestly, the earthly joy of Christmas can come to an end. When all of the presents have been opened and put away, when all of the Christmas songs have faded away, when the Christmas decorations come down, that often signals the end of Christmas joy for many. Then, it’s back to the same old thing, day after day. However, because of the love that God showed us at Christmas, our hearts can be filled with joy the whole year through. God loved me so much that he sent his Son to be my Savior. God loved me so much that I became his child. This joy can even be ours when the things of our lives make us sad and hurt. In spite of everything that is going on in my life, I have this truth. God loves me. The love that showed itself at Christmas fills our hearts with joy throughout our lives.

Christmas is a time that is full of emotions. There may be the stress of Christmas shopping and preparations that preceded the holiday. There is anticipation as you go to the mailbox and find something other than bills and junk mail. There is the giddiness of children (and many adults) of opening those brightly wrapped gifts that are under the tree. There is a warmth that you feel as you gather together with loved ones. It is my prayer that you experience many wonderful emotions of Christmas. I especially pray that you experience the joy of Christmas as you celebrate the birth of God’s Son. I pray that you experience the peace of Christmas as you remember that your Savior came to the world that day. I pray that you feel the love of God surround you, warming every part of you. God’s love is the reason for Christmas – and Jesus is the result. Amen.