I officiated at a wedding yesterday. The couple chose 1 Corinthians 13 as the Scripture reading for their service. The Love Chapter! The centerpiece of the chapter is in these verses:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)

Oh, God, please help me love like that! In the wedding message, I encouraged the couple to put their own names in these verses: Jordan is patient. Marissa is kind. Jordan does not envy. Marissa is not self-seeking... Because love is not just a feeling we feel. Love is the way we treat each other. And love is the way God has treated us!

The best known and most cherished single verse in the Bible is about God's love for us:

"For God so LOVED the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NIV)

God has every right to judge us for our sins. He is Holy and Just. But instead, He loves us. He loves us so much, He sent His beloved Son to become one of us, and to lay down His life for us as payment for the sins we cannot atone for. The birth of Jesus is the greatest love gift ever given!

Love came seeking us. Love refused to leave us in our sin. Love longs to know us intimately and to be known by us just as intimately. Love forgives. Love restores.

Most human love is conditional love. It's if love. I'll love you if you treat me well. I'll love you if you are kind to me. Conditional love is because love. I love you because you are so loving. I love you because you encourage me.

God's love is unconditional love. It's in spite of love. God loves us in spite of our rebellion against Him. God loves us in spite of our rejection of His laws and commands. God loves us in spite of our sin.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIV)

In spite of the brokenness and hatred and division and war that marks our world, Jesus came into it to show us the gracious, forgiving heart of God. In spite of our selfishness and sin, Jesus went to a Cross and endured unspeakable pain, dying as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. In spite of anything and everything that has happened in our lives to wound us and cause us pain, each and every one of us is loved by the God who created us.

God loves you, and He proved it by sending Jesus. God loves you, and there is nothing you can do about it. He always has, and He always will, whether or not you ever love Him back.

Christmas is not about giving and receiving gifts. Christmas is not about family gatherings. Christmas is not about Santa or Frosty or Rudolph or the Grinch. Christmas is about Jesus. And Christmas is about love.

Being loved like God loves me, I seek to live in His love and share His love with others. I choose to love. Because God first loved me. Because Jesus proved His love on the Cross. Because Christmas is about the love of God made real in flesh-and-blood.

Be at peace, dear one. You are loved. Live in that love and share that love with others. And have a blessed Christmas!

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