Having re-lit the candles of hope, peace, and joy, we take this fourth Sunday of Advent to reflect on the coming of love. In God taking on humanity to seek and save humanity, we see clearly the greatest loving act that the world has ever known. This transcendent God – who himself made everything that was made – loved broken humanity so much that he humbled himself to take the form of a man and lived among us. The arrival of God incarnated in human flesh was itself a wondrous, supernatural, history-changing event; yet the Bible tells us that he had no great status, handsome features, or charismatic personality with which to draw a crowd. But come the crowds did. This Jesus, born in a stable to an unmarried virgin, had the greatest gift any person could receive: love.
Advent is a season of expectancy. Much like a pregnant woman who knows that her time will one day come, so we too look forward to the coming of the expected Saviour of the world, promised hundreds of years before his birth by God through the prophet Isaiah:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall call his name Immanuel”
When the angel Gabriel came to Joseph in a dream to announce that Mary would be the one about whom the prophet spoke, Gabriel makes clear that these things are taking place that the prophecy of God through Isaiah might be fulfilled. While the events of Jesus birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension were full of supernatural, God-glorifying miracles, it is important for us to remember that they are also actual, real, historical events grounded in space and time. We look forward to the second coming of the Expected One because we can look back with certainty regarding his first coming, and the concreteness of the events that surrounded his words and deeds.
Love isn’t a word that we use to describe God in the sense that this adjective captures a part of his character while still being abstracted from him. No, rather it is distinctly the other way around. When we want to describe something else as love, we first look to God and who he is, because he alone defines it, and he alone embodies it. God is love. And God’s love is demonstrated for us in such immeasurable, limitless expression in the person and work of Jesus Christ that nothing short of our full love and worship will do as a fitting response.
The life of Jesus reveals to us what God the Father is like because (Colossians chapter one tells us) he is the image of the invisible God. When it comes to grasping the true meaning of Christmas this season we see love shared around a dinner table, love exchanged in presents around a tree, and even love demonstrated through helping those less fortunate than ourselves during a time of giving. But let’s remember during this Advent season the incomprehensible blessing of God giving us the ultimate gift of love; not another possession or thing, but himself. And with this gift, we will never seek a greater gift ever again.