MERRY CHRISTMAS! (Love: Saturday)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but should have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] “Tiny heart whose blood will save us, welcome to our world.” [Chris Rice]

Merry Christmas!  This is the day we have waited for!  A joyful time - the culmination of the hope, peace, joy, and love that we have reflected upon for the last month!  It all ties together in the person of Jesus Christ.

Because of His great love God sent Jesus to earth to so that he could live a sinless life and become a perfect, acceptable sacrifice on our behalf.  Jesus paid the price for our sin that we could not pay ourselves.  When Jesus died in our place, and then rose from the grave, conquering death, He made a way for us to be in Heaven one day.  Sin cannot enter Heaven, but because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can stand before God forgiven – as white as snow.

In Christ we find our joy and our peace.  “And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  [Galatians 5:22-23]

And because God is loving, and because His promises are as good as if they have already happened, we can hope unswervingly, looking forward to the day that Jesus will return, not as a baby, but as a king!

Read this verse and hear the loving, pursuing voice of God, “I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am, there you may be also.”  [John 14:2-3]  Christ is coming for us, that we may be where He is!  As you celebrate today, look forward as much as you look back!  Look to the day when we will see our Savior-King Jesus face to face.

What a great thing to celebrate this Christmas morning: the person of Jesus, in whom we find our hope, peace, joy, and love.

O Come All Ye Faithful Joyful and triumphant, O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, Born the King of Angels;

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels, Sing in exultation, Sing all ye citizens of heaven above. Give to our Father glory in the Highest;

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, Born this happy morning, O Jesus! To Thee be all glory giv'n. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

O, come let us adore Him today!

Love: Friday

I love that God refers to himself over and over in Scripture as “the bridegroom,” and the church as “the bride.”  I love the marriage analogy, and how much we can learn about Christ from godly husbands in the Bible, like Boaz and Hosea.  I love the passion and ardor in the Song of Solomon, and it takes my breath away to think that Christ feels so lovingly towards me.  That he might say to me, “Arise, come my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” Marriage is THE most intimate, tender, permanent human relationship.  Period.  And it is so because it is to reflect the relationship of Christ and his bride, the church.  As I thought about the love of God today, I was reminded of one of the last weddings I attended.  When my best friend, Brooke, got married, this is what I read during her wedding ceremony:

“We've heard, today, that marriage was created to be one of God’s visual aids, if you will.  God is always revealing himself to people, to us, in extraordinary ways.  Burning bushes, pillars of cloud and fire, a gentle whisper, and the perfect sinless person of Jesus Christ.  Marriage is God showing us, in a tangible way, His enduring faithfulness and bottomless love.

What an unspeakable joy (and a high calling) to step into this very daily opportunity to reflect God’s love.  I would like to share a song with you that has been dear to my heart for a long time.  Contained in the brevity of three very simple verses you find the elements of REAL love.

Volition, choice, will. Selflessness and generosity. Forgiveness and steadfastness.

It’s titled, “I Will Not Take My Love Away.”

“I will not take my love away When praises cease and seasons change The whole world turns the other way I will not take my love away.

I will not leave you all alone When strivings lead you far from home When there’s no yield for what you’ve sown I will not leave you all alone.

I will give you what you need In plenty or in poverty Whatever wrong is done to me I will give you what you need.

I will not take my love away.”

May your marriage grow in grace to become an increasingly perfect reflection of the matchless love of God.”

God’s love towards you is tender and steadfast.

His desire is to be pursued by you; He wants you to know Him intimately.  Even in the very best, most beautiful marriage, any representation of love we see on this side of eternity is but a whisper of the incredible, intimate, personal love of God.

How will this perspective of God’s love change your day today?  How can you live differently in light of God’s deep, deep love for you?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLOqfVJeQ5g[/youtube]

God will not take his love away.

Love: Thursday

My friend, Megan, is an excellent gift-giver.  Some people are just that way; my brother is, too.  Every single gift he’s ever given me has been thoughtful, practical, sentimental – perfect.  Megan is a gifter, too.  She sends cards to me all year round, and collects little odds and ends all year long to stick into birthday and Christmas packages.  Last year, when she mailed my Christmas present from her home in Baltimore, the box arrived more than two weeks early.   I called to let her know that it had arrived and almost before I got the words out of my mouth she said, “HAVE YOU OPENED IT YET??” “No, it’s not Christmas yet!” I told her.

“Oh!  But it’s okay, I don’t mind.  Just open it.  I can’t wait until Christmas –you’re going to love it!”

Have you ever felt this way about a gift – that you could hardly wait for someone to open it?

Perhaps a lucky find that you stumbled across: a teapot that matches your mother’s old wedding china, a collectors item, a notebook with a particular quote or phrase on it that has special meaning to your friend?  Or maybe something that you spent hours and hours on.  A scrapbook or photo album, or a piece of homemade art.   When you are proud of your gift, when you can’t wait to bestow it on someone you love, giving is downright exhilarating.  I remember one night, before I gave Dan a “just because” gift that I had been planning and working on for days, I could hardly sleep!  I was thinking about what else I could do, about how much he would love it, about how much I loved him – I tossed and turned all night long!

Think of the best, most special gift you’ve ever given somebody – can you recall that excited, fluttery feeling?  The thrill of bestowing something of value on someone you love?  Now, multiply that times a million.  Can you imagine what God the Father must have felt on Christmas Eve, the night before Jesus was born?  Can you imagine His exhilaration, His antsy joy the night before he sent our Savior, the very best gift in the history of the world?  God bestowed something of infinite value – His only Son – upon something He loved outlandishly – us.  The most loving Giver gave the very best gift.  God knew this night from the beginning of time, but now it was upon Him.  “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman… to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”  [Galatians 4:4-5]

In His extravagant love, God gave.  Consider this today:  What is something that you can give today, out of love?  A small token, a phone call, your encouragement, an unexpected gift?  And also, what have you done with Jesus Christ, the gift that God sent to you?

Love: Wednesday

There have been times this year that I have been anxious.  I remember one particular day this fall, when we were driving Madeline to the ophthalmologist at Emory.  I was wound so tightly, like a too-tight guitar string, ready to take an eye out with a loud TWANG at the slightest brush.  Before we even left the house for Madeline’s eye appointment I said out loud to myself (first sign of danger), while pacing frantically around the kitchen (second sign of danger), “I need chocolate immediately" (trifecta).

“What?  You don’t have directions?  We have to go print them at the church?  That was my responsibility?  What, it’s time to leave?  You’re not ready Madeline?  You mean to tell me you’re two-years-old and you didn’t feed yourself and pack your own diaper bag??  What, there’s traffic in Atlanta?  Since when?  What, Madeline doesn’t LOVE her carseat?  What, there’s no time for lunch??  What?  We’ve been married all this time and you don’t even know the EXACT type of granola bar I’m craving from the gas station in this exact moment?  UGH!  You mean Madeline doesn’t love having her eyes dialated?  And she isn’t thrilled to wear the sunglasses the WHOLE WAY HOME?”

When Dan asked me what I wanted for dinner I walked into the next room, curled up into the fetal position in a chair in the corner, and started crying.  No exaggeration, you can ask him.

But in that moment, something beautiful happened.  Dan walked over to me, brushed my hair out of my face, held my teary cheeks in his hands, and said, “I love you.”  Peace and gratitude swept over me like a flood.   I released every muscle I didn’t know I was clenching.  As my husband, the man that I believe in and love and respect more than any other, Dan’s love has the power to quiet me.  When I am full of fear or frustration or worry, one well-timed, sincere display of affection can melt it all away and bring me back to center.

And so it is with Christ.  Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love...”  The New Living Translation says it this way: “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears…”

Is there a fear in your heart that needs to be calmed?  Could you use a well-timed display of affection from God?  I pray that this Christmas season you will allow God to quiet you with His love.  Rest in it, revel in it; find your peace and satisfaction in the love of God today.

Love: Tuesday

Whenever I was going through a difficult time in my childhood, my mother used to tell me, “The important things don’t change.”  When my life was flipping upside down and it seemed that nothing would ever be the same again she reminded me:  “I am still your Mom.  Your Dad is still your Dad.  We both still love you very much.  You are still Kate, and you still have every skill, passion, gift, and interest that makes you, you.  God is still good, He is still in control, and He still loves you.”  The really crucial, important things don’t change. Paul assures us of one very unchanging thing in the book of Romans.  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8:38-39]

This means that your sin cannot separate you from the love of Jesus - nothing you have ever done, or said, or thought.  There is no mistake, no secret shame, no willful act of rebellion that can separate you from God’s love for you in Jesus.  There is no combination of a hundred sins that can separate you from God’s love.

This means that no circumstance, no matter how dark or fearful, can separate you from the love of God.  No tragedy diminishes his love for you.  You cannot put yourself in a place far enough, Satan cannot put you in a place dark enough, the world cannot put you in a place difficult enough to separate you from the love of God.

No amount of illness makes you “too much of a hassle,” no amount of stubbornness and pride make you unreachable.  You cannot be too needy or too hopeless for God.  No foolish choices, no number of failed relationships or lost jobs, NOTHING in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The thing is though, in order to be “unseparated,” you have to be where God is. Have you accepted God’s radical love?  Are you with Him?  THIS is what Christmas is about!  God came to us!  He entered our mortal world and became Emmanuel, which means “God with us!”

How can you reflect God’s unchanging love this season?  Whom can you encourage one more time?  Whom can you forgive one more time?  Is there a family member who needs to be reminded of the ever-present, unchanging nature of God’s love?  A friend or a neighbor in a time of need?  I challenge you today, in response to God’s steadfast love in your life, to be the vessel through which God pours His love onto someone who needs to be reminded that “the important things don’t change.”