“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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9,10).
The looks on the faces of my catechism students revealed their confusion. I had said, “You don’t have to like someone to love someone.” You can guess why they were confused even if you weren’t in the room for the conversation. For many people, the word love simply means a stronger form of liking someone or something. I like everything on the menu at my restaurant of choice, but I really love this dish! I like all the players on my favorite team, but I really love the team’s leading all-star!
The biblical concept of love is much stronger than that. Biblical love put into practice will speak and act in a way that serves in the best interest of our neighbors. We get a sense of what that looks like from excerpts of John the Baptist’s firm and fiery Advent preaching. When people heeded his call to repentance and asked what they should do, part of his answer was vocation-specific ways of showing love to one’s neighbor (see Luke 3:10-14).
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, love is often in short supply. The busyness of the season—pageants and practices, concerts and rehearsals, parties and presents and preparations—overwhelms our schedule. But have these pre-Christmas externals also moved more important priorities further down our list? Does our patience with others grow thin? Is our time in God’s house and in his Word suffocated by the hustle and bustle that overtake our December days? Does our love for God and our neighbor become noticeably weak at a time when we are about to celebrate his great love for us set into motion?
No wonder Advent presents us with John the Baptist’s bold call to repent! The Lord and his prophet have our best interest in mind. That is why God’s Word calls us to repent of anything and everything that compromises our love for him and for one another. That is also why Jesus Christ came into this world as the one who perfectly loved the Father’s plan of salvation and perfectly loved us to death, even death on a cross.
The love we have received from our Savior is powerful. It changes hearts from pride to repentance, from unbelief to faith, from selfishness to generous and grateful love for God and neighbor. He who first loved us fills us with a love that finds new and sincere ways to reflect his saving love to the souls that cross our paths each day from now to Christmas and until his triumphant return.
Watch students from Martin Luther College sing the suggested hymn, “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry.”
Author: Johnold Strey
Volume: 110, Number 12
Issue: December 2023