The Greatest Gift based on 1 John 4:9-11
Advent 3 – December 12, 2010
Pastor Richard Mau
Immanuel Lutheran – Des Plaines, IL
Psalm 65 Jeremiah 31:33-34 1 John 4:7-15 Luke 1:57-79
Today is the 3rd Sunday in Advent. We lighted the third of the Advent candles, the rose-colored candle that represents God’s love to all in “Joy.”
Recently are a number of television advertisements from the jewelry merchants showing the great joy when the diamond is given. In those vignettes the diamond is an expression of love. The diamond is an enduring item and comes at a significant expense (despite the “bargain prices” proclaimed by the vendorsJ). It expresses an enduring love and the expense one will pay to show and ensure that long-lasting love. For many, that gift may be the “greatest” gift because of what it symbolizes and expresses. Each scene depicts the great joy receiving and also in giving such a great gift.
1 John 4:9-11 tells the great gift and the joy both in giving and receiving the gift. 9 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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
What if those advertisements showed the recipient denying the gift and all that is behind that gift? Imagine the expression on the giver turning from joyfulness to disappointment, being crushed to the depths of the heart. The gift is still there. The love behind the gift is still there. It is still the “greatest gift” with all of the emotion of giving and the expectation of the response. But the joy has gone. No one wants to think of that circumstance nor does anyone wish to go back in memory lane to any similar circumstance.
In today’s Gospel reading is the account when John the Baptist is born to Zechariah and Elizabeth. It was a day of great joy to this couple who, in their elderly years, were now given the gift of a child, the greatest gift either one of them and all who knew them could begin to imagine. John, like Isaac was to Abraham and Sarah, was a miracle child. Like Isaac, he brought a different laughter into the home. It was laughter because of astonishment and joy brought into the lives of parents and those surrounding them. With John the Baptist is also the promise that he would be the “voice in the wilderness” preparing the people for an even greater and more miraculous gift that would follow him. As we sang Zechariah’s song of blessing and praise and sending out (the Benedictus) we sang the words proclaiming that God’s greatest gift, the forgiveness of sins through a savior has come as Zechariah proclaimed, “…for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant, David,” [Luke 1:68-9]. Through the Holy Spirit by Mary’s visit to Elizabeth three months earlier, Zechariah knew that God’s love sending his son, our savior, was also being fulfilled at that moment.
God made man to love. He made each and every person to love. He made you to love you. When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, God did not react, but his plan from eternity has always been and will continue to be to give you his greatest gift, his unlimited and unending love to you. In all of the things of this earth, from simple air and land and water to the food and shelter and provisions to the wonderful gifts in family and friends and whatever else one may cherish on this earth, God keeps doing one better and one greater, his love is made perfect in forgiveness. He does not want the sadness and emptiness of even one little and defenseless and terribly blemished lamb to be lost in any way, shape or form. God’s will is the joy of each lamb being saved and the joy each lamb will have being restored as a perfect and beautiful lamb in the pastures of heaven. God can and does accomplish that through one gift alone, the greatest gift only almighty God can give, his love in his son Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:8 “… but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Galatians 4:4-5 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law…”
1 John 4:10 “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
God’s love at Christmas is giving the best, all that he has, Jesus Christ, to be born in such a quiet and humble manner, to beat Satan at his own game not for his sake alone, but for each and every one. He came to die carrying all of your sins to the grave and rising again so that you know that God’s words and promises are faithful and true giving that new life to you.
We live in God’s love, knowing sins are freely forgiven. We live in peace knowing God has broken the barrier of sin and guilt and shame and death and Hell down, bringing each one back into his eternal arms. He has washed and restored each one in the waters of baptism by the blood of Jesus Christ. We live in joy knowing that all of the sadness and complexity of sin has already been overcome in the victory over death by Jesus Christ. We live in sure and certain hope knowing that as Jesus Christ is preparing each one’s room in his father’s house, he will come again to take each one to be with him there.
That is God’s love and joy to celebrate at Christmas, his greatest gift that he has given in Jesus Christ our risen and ascended Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ undying love. Amen.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. [Philippians 4:7]