Love

 
 
At its essence, Christmas is a love story. It is the greatest expression of God’s love for us.
 

God’s wonderful love is both given and proven to us through Christmas.

 
See John 3:16. Giving is what love does. Giving is how love expresses itself. Giving is the heart of love; and therefore, giving is the heart of God.
 
What was God’s motive for sending us Christ? Love = Agapē describes an active, self-giving love which, in goal and action, consistently seeks the highest good of another.
 
This is a love that is willfully given with no conditions and no expectations in return. Real love is selfless and sacrificial. It knows that it is more blessed to give than receive. See 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
 
Read 1 John 4:7-17.
 
(Vs. 7-8) God is love. He is the source of all love; therefore, love comes from God. It has accurately been said that “love does not define God, but God defines love.” Love is God’s very essence. It is not one of God’s many activities; instead, all of his activities are filled with love.
 
Only those who have experienced the new birth are able to have the love described here. It comes from God as a gift.
 

Our love for God is best proven in how we love others.

 
(Vs. 9) God’s love is best understood through action.
 

God put His love on display that first Christmas so that no one could miss it.

 
His love was shown among us! His love came right to where we live. The great proof of God’s love, as well as the motive for our love in return, is that he sent his only Son, who is life, so that we could live through him.
Believers must not only say that they love, love must be shown by their actions. This also follows God’s example, for he showed his love by a very clear and definite action.
 
(Vs. 10) Of all the different kinds of love, God’s love—agape—is the truest and most enduring. It speaks of compassion, kindness, unselfishness, and sacrifice. This kind of love motivated God to send his Son to the world to die for undeserving sinners. The love relationship was initiated by God; people had nothing to do with it. How could we? All people were totally dead to God—dead in sin. He loved us even though we were totally unworthy of his love. See Romans 5:8.


God loves all people, but his love does not soften His view of sin.

 
God’s love does not overlook our sin. Instead, His love came right in the midst of our sin to provide a final solution for our sin. It was God’s love for us, and his hatred of sin, that motivated him to send His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
 
(Vs. 11-12) Because believers are born of God, they should resemble their Father, who is love. The way God loves people—sacrificially, unselfishly, completely—provides the example for how believers should love each other. When we can love in this way, God’s love is made complete in us. But we cannot do this without the abiding help of the Holy Spirit.
 
(Vs. 13-17) Jesus Christ, sent from God the Father, embodied love and demonstrated that love in his life on earth. Such love does not come naturally for humans. We are not born with it, neither can we learn it. Believers receive God’s love only through the Holy Spirit.
 

The Holy Spirit at work within us should lead us to live and love like Jesus.

 
God’s love always involves a choice and an action, and our love should be like his. How well do you display your love for God in the choices you make and the actions you take?
 

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Joy

 
Read Luke 2:8-20.
 
What is joy? The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires (Merriam-Webster). The definition of joy as used in the Bible is closely related to gladness and happiness, although joy is more a state of being than an emotion.
 
The world tells us that joy comes from something within you, something you do. In other words, you alone are responsible for your joy. However, the true joy that God wants us to experience is not found within yourself.
 
The true joy that God wants us to experience in life is actually a gift. No, not the kind you find wrapped in fancy paper and placed under the Christmas tree. This gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.
 
The joy of God came to focus in human history and became individually available to us in Jesus Christ. The theme of joy runs through the entire biblical account of the coming of Christ. The most familiar passage is the angel’s announcement (Luke 2:10-11).
 

Joy is both a gift of God as well as a response to the gift of God.

 
True joy is not something I can produce with my own resources. It is a gift of God. That gift that offers great joy is the gift of His Son, Jesus.
 
Luke 2:11 states “as Savior has been born to you.” The English word “to” is implies action, a movement toward a place, person, or thing. It also is used to indicate contact or close proximity. This sounds a lot like the process of giving a gift to someone. You move the gift in their direction (an action) and it needs to be within their reach (close proximity). That is exactly what God did for us when He gave the gift of His Son.
 
Joy isn’t something you earn, deserve, or conjure up. Joy is a gift of God given to everyone who will receive it in all its simplicity.
 
Joy is also the response to the gift of God. When we believe in Christ, accept Him as the Savior of our sins, and choose to follow Him as Lord we will have joy.
 
Joy is defined as possessing what one desires (Webster). Placed within each of our hearts is a desire for relation with our Creator. That relationship is now only made possible through Christ Jesus — our Savior and Lord. When we choose to accept Christ as Savior of our sins and Lord of our life, we will find true and lasting joy — we possess that which we truly desire.

The Apostle Peter explains the joy of our salvation in Christ in his first letter. See 1 Peter 1:8-9.
 
Joy does not come from what you do — it comes from what Christ has done for you. Joy does not come from the right set of circumstances — it comes from trusting in Christ regardless of our circumstances.
 
Joy is both a gift of God as well as a response to the gift of God — Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus speaks of the joy He gives in one of his last moments with His disciples before He was arrested, beaten, and crucified. See John 15:9-11.
 
Is your joy complete today? It can be. But it won’t be completed by trying harder, acting happier, or thinking happier. It won’t be completed with the next purchase, experience, or event.
 

Joy is found in receiving God’s greatest gift of all, Jesus our Savior.

 

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Peace

About 700 years before the birth of Christ, the Prophet Isaiah spoke of the peace that Jesus came to bring into our world. See Isaiah 9:6-7. Luke, in his Gospel of the Life of Christ, writes about the night that Jesus was born which included a special message from angelic messengers. See Luke 2:4-14.
 
“Peace” means harmonious relations and freedom from disputes; a state of well-being, completeness, and wholeness.
 

Peace with God.

 
The first step toward peace with God is to recognize that there is enmity between man and God. Acknowledge there is a broken relationship between you and God. The second step toward peace with God is to acknowledge that God has provided a solution to our broken relationship through His Son, Jesus. See Romans 5:1-2. Jesus came as the messenger of peace with God and the means to peace with God. See Ephesians 2:17-18.
 
The third step to peace with God is to accept Christ as our only Savior and Lord. See Colossians 1:19-20. The proclamation of Christmas is “God and sinners, reconciled.” Jesus is the perfect mediator between God and man and has come to restore peace with God.
 

Peace with God does not come from what you do. Peace with God comes from what Jesus has done for you.

 

Peace with each other.

 
There is no peace on earth because there is no peace with God. The further we are from God, the greater our relational strife. But once you have made peace with God, you can and will make peace with others. See Ephesians 2:14-16; Romans 14:19.
 

If you are not able to make peace with others, it will affect your peace with God.

 

Peace within our broken world.

 
Jesus came to bring peace unlike anything this world can offer. See John 14:27.
Jesus came to bring peace that is personal. See Ephesians 2:14; John 16:33.
Jesus came to bring peace that guards your heart and mind. See Philippians 4:6-7.
Jesus came to bring peace within amidst the chaos without. See Isaiah 26:3.
 

Peace on earth is not found within what this world has to offer. It is only found within a relationship with Christ, the Prince of Peace.

 
See Romans 15:13.
 

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Hope

The hope of a coming Savior was a golden thread woven throughout the 4,000 years between the birth of our sin and the birth of our Savior. These glimpses of hope were like vistas or viewpoints throughout the long journey of the Advent of Christ. Likewise, on your journey of life, pause to take in the viewpoints of hope along the way.
 
Viewpoint #1: Adam & Eve. Adam and Eve had just sinned against God. In the midst of dispensing the consequence of sin, God surprises us with hope. See Genesis 3:15. He speaks of a Savior — One who will crush the head of Satan and yet in the process suffer for our sin. Even in this darkest moment of man’s sin, God speaks hope.
 

In the darkest moments of your sin hope shines on a Savior who forgives.

 
See Colossians 1:13-14.
 
Viewpoint #2: Abraham and Sarah. See Genesis 12:2-3. Abraham and Sarah would not see this hope fulfilled for over 25 years. But even through the long waiting, God kept His promise and Abraham and Sarah. The Apostle Paul wrote about the hope we have that God will keep his promises. See Romans 4:18-21. The promise given to Abraham would find its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus (2,o00 years later).
 

In your longest periods of waiting, hope endures in the faithfulness of God.

 
See also Galatians 4:4-5.
 
Viewpoint #3: Kingdoms of Israel & Judah. The love and commitment of the people of God had grown cold. They would continue to compromise their beliefs and yield to the influence of surrounding cultures. God speaks a promise through the Prophet Isaiah even in the midst of chaos and compromise. See Isaiah 7:14; 9:2; 9:6-7.
 

In times of cultural upheaval and compromise, hope focuses on God’s power and authority.

 
Viewpoint #4: When God Seems Silent. The Lord confronts the post-exilic Jews through the prophet Malachi. But embedded in his prophetic warnings, there is a message of hope. See Malachi 3:1. After Malachi’s prophecies, the Lord goes silent (400 years). But God is still at work even in the silence.
 

In times when God seems silent and distant, hope assures us of His presence.

 
This period of silence ends with the most remarkable assurance of His presence — the birth of Christ, God in the flesh. See Luke 1:26-33.
 

The Advent of Christ teaches us that we can live with expectations of divine hope even in the darkest of times.

 
See Romans 15:13; Hebrews 10:23.
 

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Good News

 
Read: Luke 2:1–7; Micah 5:2.

The overwhelming message of this passage is the humble circumstances into which Jesus was born. It just seems so un-extraordinary. The simplicity of the Savior’s birth reminds us of the simplicity of our salvation.
 

The birth of the Savior in your life requires humility.

 
Read: Luke 2:8–12.
 
Why did the announcement go to shepherds? The shepherds represented the types of people overlooked by religion. Due to their employment as shepherds, they would not be able to participate in religious worship. They represent those pushed to the side by religion.
 
Of all the times that I have read this passage, a phrase jumped right off the pages to me this time as I considered the shepherds. The phrase is “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” The prophet Isaiah foretells of the demonstration of God’s glory (Isaiah 60:1-2).
 
Christ’s birth was the light that had come. These shepherds were the first to experience the glory of the Lord returning in a whole new way. The Holy presence of the Lord shone around ritually unclean shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem. The glory didn’t appear in the Temple in Jerusalem. It appeared to the most unlikely characters in a most unlikely place.
 
When the Shepherds saw and angel the the Glory of the Lord all around them they were indeed terrified. Terrified because they may have heard stories of the power and the purity of God’s glory. They probably thought judgement and death would follow. But it didn’t. Instead, the Angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” After calming the shepherds’ fears, the angel declares what God is doing. Humanity has nothing to fear when God moves in grace.
 
His glory and presence was coming in a whole new way. This was the Good News. God Himself was going to dwell with man. See John 1:14.
 
This is the ultimate expression of God’s grace. Our Lord, our Savior, is approachable, he is near, he welcomes those who are not perfect. A Savior has been offered to you. But as with all gifts offered, it needs to be personally received.
 

While the Savior’s offer is universal, it requires a personal response.

 
Read: Luke 2:13–20.

The Shepherds weren’t satisfied with just hearing about the Good News. They had to go and see, to experience, to receive this Good News bundled up in the swaddling clothes and lying in a manger — within reach of all who would come with humble hearts.
 
After the encounter with their newborn Savior, the Shepherds spread the word.
 

Those who experience the Good News share the Good News.

 
Remember, the angels announced that it was good news for all people. What are you doing to place the Good News within reach of those around you?
 
Don’t complicate Christmas. God made this as down to earth, simple, approachable, and interactive as He possibly could. Don’t complicate it. Don’t take away from the simplicity of it. Approach it again with simple faith. The Good News is within your reach. God’s favor rests on you during this season of grace. Don’t miss it.
 

TODAY…a Savior has been born to you.

 
Will you respond to him today?
 

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Unexpected News

 

Read: Luke 1:5–7. Right after we are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth, we are confronted with the problem and the pain that has plagued their lives for years – infertility. It was often considered a result of personal sin or judgement from God. Because of this, it brought an incredible amount of disgrace upon the women suffering from it. The fact they were blameless and infertile doesn’t seem to go together. This is a great example of bad things happening to good people for no apparent reason. My experience has proven that God is at work for my good (and others) even in the midst of unfair events.

The first bit of unexpected news: Your limitation does not limit the effectiveness of God’s plan. God regularly worked great things through those who felt limited. We need to learn to view our limit as God’s conduit through which He works out His plan.

 
Your limitation does not limit the effectiveness of God’s plan.

 

Read: Luke 1:8–13. Why did God wait to make this announcement and answer their prayers at this appointed time? Why not years earlier when they undoubtedly prayed earnestly for a child? God’s plan had multiple layers, multiple players. Next dose of unexpected news is: God’s plan for you isn’t just about you. God sent Jesus, his Son, at the appointed time. Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t know what God was up to and were unaware of His timeline. They were a parallel story that was about to merge with the great story of God’s plan. Their hopes and dreams were bound up in God’s ultimate plan — which wasn’t just a child for them BUT a Savior for the whole world — whom their child, John, would prepare the way for.

God’s plan for you isn’t just about you.

 
They were to be a part of the plan God was preparing to unfold — and this plan wasn’t just about them or John. It was about Jesus! Could it be that your current unanswered prayer is on hold because God is working out a plan greater than you could ever imagine.

Read: Luke 1:14-17. The name “John” means Gift of God. He was certainly a gift of God to his parents. But this gift of God wasn’t meant to be kept to themselves. As this passage illustrates, John was to be used of God to make way for the Son of God.

The birth of John was placed in the Christmas story to remind us that God still wants us to introduce people to Jesus. The unexpected news of Christmas is that You are the gift of God used by God to introduce someone to Jesus this Christmas.
 
Christmas is one time of the year that people are surrounded by the message of Christ. How might God use you to prepare the way for someone to discover Christ as Savior this Christmas.
 
You are the gift of God used by God to introduce someone to Jesus this Christmas.

 

Read: Luke 1:18–25. In its most basic form, disgrace means a reversal or removal of grace; to fall out of favor. Elizabeth experienced disgrace personally and publicly because of her infertility. However, God extended grace to Elizabeth and that expression of God’s favor removed her disgrace. The final piece of unexpected news we can glean from this story of Christmas Greetings is that God’s favor in your life removes disgrace from your life. God’s favor is expressed through His gift of undeserved grace.

There was nothing that Zechariah or Elizabeth could do to bring this about. It was all God. God gave her grace in place of her disgrace. In what ways do you struggle with disgrace? This Christmas Greeting is a reminder that you don’t have to live in that disgrace any longer. In fact, disgrace cannot survive under the power of God’s amazing grace.
 
God’s favor in your life removes disgrace from your life.

 

Perhaps you feel as though you have fallen from God’s grace and are left wallowing in disgrace. Please listen to me: God’s grace is still available to you. God still favors you.

Which unexpected news did you most need to hear today? What do you need to do to respond to this news today?
 
 

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