During Advent, we have reflected on the ideas of Joy, Peace, and Hope. We finish our journey to Christmas with the theme of Love. Specifically, we consider the giving of love.
I don’t know about you, but I have been guilty of assuming that people know how I feel about them. Have you ever done that? Has anyone ever assumed you didn’t really care about them because you never stopped and told them directly how much they mattered to you?
I sometimes feel the inside emotion of love but forget to tell my face! It’s simple and true that people don’t know how we feel unless we show them. This is why when the Bible speaks of real love, it speaks primarily about an action far more than it does a feeling. Real love acts, sacrifices and gives. I love the way 1 John 4 defines the giving nature of God’s love.
1 John 4:9
“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.”
John reminds us that God’s love was “manifest” or “made clear and obvious” because he acted. We are able to comprehend the love of God not just because he felt love toward us, but because he acted in love toward us.
I think the giving of love is an important distinction because this season is full of feelings. More than any other time of year, Christmas is emotionally charged. The sights, sounds, places, memories and even food, carry the emotions of Christmas. Sometimes these feelings are difficult, especially if we’re separated from friends or family. Mostly, however, Christmas feelings are warm and good. This is a season full of childhood wonder, family traditions, hot chocolate, pine trees, colorful lights, Hallmark movies, and fuzzy blankets. We love the way Christmas makes us feel. The challenge, of course, is that feelings alone are incomplete. Feelings must be expressed to be fully alive.
Clark Griswold in “Christmas Vacation” is a great picture of this.
Clark is driven to cut down a wild Christmas tree and cover his house with “25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights” that you can see from outer space! His passion for decoration comes from a desire to show his family how strongly he feels about Christmas. Even when everything begins to fall apart, he simply must show everyone how important this Christmas is to him! Clark’s story illustrates that “all the Christmas feels” aren’t very satisfying unless they are shared.
As I drive through my neighborhood, I can tell who really loves Christmas, some homes like the Griswold’s have made it really obvious with their decoration! Based on what they’ve done outside, I can see what the people inside feel. It would certainly be strange then, to love Christmas but never talk about it, never decorate for it, and never enjoy any holiday tradition.
Unexpressed feelings live in us like a caterpillar in a cocoon. In the cocoon of self, our feelings are safe and warm, but they are never fully alive. They never fly, they never breakout into something bigger or more beautiful, and most sadly, they never impact others.
In this way, I think the lights, the trees, and the decoration of Christmas give us a beautiful picture of Jesus. We know love only because he first loved us. If the 25,000 space-visible Griswold lights display Clark’s love for Christmas, they pale in comparison to the cosmic neon sign of God’s love for you in Jesus!
The great reminder of Christmas is that our Heavenly Father not only felt love toward us, he acted on it! He didn’t leave us wondering. He didn’t keep his feelings to himself. Christmas is the moment in the story when Jesus crossed time and space to enter our world. He became fragile and vulnerable, he lived with us, and ultimately, he gave his life for us. And he did all this so that his actions could shout as loudly as possible “I love you!”—he came to earth so that you would never have to guess how he feels about you!
Sarah and I have two teenage sons, and we are vividly reminded this year that they won’t be living at home much longer. One day soon they’ll have families of their own and start making new family traditions. This truth doesn’t make us love them less. Far from it. It makes us cherish every moment even more.
Sarah said it this way, “Knowing that someday soon they’ll have families of their own to celebrate with Christmas morning, I hug them a little tighter.”
The limited time we have motivates us to make sure they know how much we love them. I think this season with them has created a powerful desire in me to make sure I “show and tell” them how I feel. I want to leave no doubt about how their dad feels toward them!
How do we do that? Do we only feel stronger about them? No, we show them more of our love through more of our actions. Feeling means little without action. This is exactly the encouragement given to us in 1 John 3.
1 John 3:18 (NLT)
“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”
This is the love we are called to at Christmas. Love that has been shown to us so brightly, we cannot help but reflet to the world around us. And when the world around us gets ugly or feels broken, we don’t love less, we actually do the opposite…we love more!
If you’ve ever wondered why we pair our Compassion Offering with the Advent season, maybe this idea helps. It’s at Christmas we understand the nature of God’s giving love. A love that is not content to enjoy nice feelings, but a love motivated to make a difference for the people we love!
The Compassion Offering is much like Christmas lights on our homes. Love shown outside tells the world what is happening inside. No one has to guess how we feel about them. Most importantly, they don’t have to guess how Jesus feels about them!
Christmas is certainly about so much more than lights and trees, but maybe the decoration of Christmas is a perfect picture of what the season is all about.
Some of us love to “show and tell” God’s goodness, I pray this season is a reminder that you really are making an impact with your giving of love to the people around you. Keep it up!
For others of us, our outward expression of love is like boxes of Christmas décor left in the attic to collect dust. We don’t often show outwardly what we feel inwardly. Maybe this season it’s time to find your joyful affection and get it out of storage! Show it off! It’s time to put up some Jesus decorations on our face and let people know we love them!
So, I supposed that leaves me with 2 simple challenges for this week.
Say the words out loud. “Thank you, Jesus! You didn’t keep your love to yourself, you gave it to me!” There’s power in receiving this gift of supernatural love. He’s the only real source of love and our only real power to share it.
When you feel the emotions of love & care, don’t just let the moment pass, act on it. Send a text, say thank you, give a gift, stop by someone’s office, share a favorite memory, call your mom! Make someone’s day, if you have the means – make someone’s year! SHOW people how you feel! Trust that the love of Jesus dwells in you and you have his heart for people. You never know what God can do through one little “nudge from above”!
As followers of Jesus, we fight against selfish tendencies and we fight for the giving of love, because love given away is a love that changes everything!