by Jennifer Kennedy Dean
“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 NIV)
What is love? John seems to ask his readers. “This is love.” In answer, he describes a love that has its genesis in God. The love God has for us is not a love conceived by humans, but a love that is foreign to us except that God supplies it. Love’s full expression—when He showed us in real time what His love looked like—came in the form of giving all He had to rescue us from the darkness and death of sin. When we were hopeless, love turned everything around.
Take note of the setting of Christ’s Incarnation—His coming to earth. It was in the midst of our hopeless situation; our no-way-out circumstances; our all-is-lost setting. When we were so mired in sin that our situation was hopeless, Hope Himself entered our world and demonstrated the love of God toward us. “But here is how God has shown his love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
When the Messiah came, He came into a world void of hope. The Israelites had longed for His appearing for generations and been disappointed time and again. But when it looked as if God was nowhere to be seen, the truth is that He had been laying the groundwork since the beginning of time. Expectant hope had been replaced by disappointment that gave way to rote observances and routine, empty expressions of religion. From earth’s vantage point, God was distant at best, absent at worst. No hint of a Savior on the horizon.
But heaven has a different vantage point.
“As I think this evening on Your unspeakable Gift, I let my mind wander, considering the careful, detailed preparation You made. I contemplate the patient advance work You did. I remember how You miraculously put each piece in place in its perfect time, all leading up to the moment when You would wrap Your Gift in flesh and lay Him in a manger.” (Pursuing the Christ)
The Christmas narrative is awash in details that tell the story of God’s unfolding plan, His perfectly choreographed drama. From the dawn of history, God had been arranging circumstances, calling people into place, working toward the day heaven would invade earth in the form of a newborn baby.
Into bleak hopelessness, Hope appears.
Adapted from Pursuing the Christ by Jennifer Kennedy Dean Prayinglife.org
*Art of the acrostic for HOPE available for download