1 John 4:7-10 (The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve—Series B)
“A Life That Loves”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
December 24, 2017
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is from Christmas Eve Epistle lesson recorded in 1 John, chapter 4:
7Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God. Indeed, everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8The one who does not love has not known God because God is love. 9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His one-of-a-kind Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God, but because He Himself loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
The message of Christmas can be called the ultimate love letter from God Himself to all people. But it’s more than just a message. It’s more than a simple “I love you” note on a piece of paper. The Nativity of our Lord is God revealing in concrete terms the breadth and depth of His love in the real, historical event of the sending of His Son.
The basis for our celebration of Christmas is the love of God. Love is from God. Love belongs to God. And God shows Himself to be a God of love. John says it very plainly, “God is love.” Now love is not simply a quality or characteristic that God possesses. Love IS who God IS. Just as God IS holy, just, merciful, and gracious. These attributes describe God but they also reveal to us the very nature of God, the very essence of God. God is love, selfless and self-giving.
What a contrast God is to humanity! People are not by nature selfless and self-giving. Rather, we are by nature selfish and self-absorbed. That’s the effect of sin upon humanity. We are all born with the inclination to put ourselves first, to think about ourselves before we consider the needs of other people. We think of ourselves even before we look to God. Because we are selfish and self-absorbed, we fail to love. We do not love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Luther wrote that “human nature now is so submerged in sin that it cannot think or feel anything correct about God. It does not love God; it hates Him violently.” In our sin, we also fail to love our neighbors. We “love” ourselves way more than we “love” one another.
Charles Dickens’s character of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol captures this aspect of humanity’s sinful nature. A December 15, 2013, blog published by Dr. Jeff Skolnick on the Psychology Today website highlights this:
“Ebenezer Scrooge you’re not. Yet, there is a bit of Scrooge in all of us.
“Not me,” you say? “People like me.” Yet, there’s a quality to everyone’s life that is self-centered and disconnected from others. You might see Mr. Scrooge as he rears himself up in competitiveness—like when you race to speed up to prevent another driver from getting ahead of you or you resent other people’s success or needing to win in an argument.
He even shows himself when you feel victimized by life and blame others and life circumstances for your unhappiness. What does that get you? It makes you irritable, disappointed and sad. Yup, good ole Ebenezer comes up constantly. He’s there anytime we look (and more like grasp) outside ourselves for happiness—like “retail therapy” shopping, wishing for that perfect relationship, needing a chemical to relax or even living for the idea of an ideal life.”
Selfish and self-absorbed sinners—that’s us by nature.
But there’s something different about you. You are able to love God and to love one another. No, it’s not a perfect love. It fails and it falls short. But you do love. How can this be? Love is of God. Love is from God and belongs to God and He gives love to you so that you can live a life that loves. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but because He Himself loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
God displayed His love among us in sending His Son in human flesh. “Into an unrelentingly hostile environment God ‘sent forth Jesus’ to rescue, to redeem, to grant a privileged status to those ‘beloved’ of him . . . , that all in Christ may be part of ‘us.’” The ‘us’ is Christ’s Church. You and I together are the beloved of God to whom He demonstrated and displayed and gifted His gracious love in the sending of His “One-of-a-Kind Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” Luther said, “Consider the inestimable love of God, and show me a religion that could proclaim a similar mystery. Therefore let us embrace Christ, who was delivered for us.”
Jesus, true God and true Man, was delivered to death on the cross to be the “atoning sacrifice” for your sins. That’s why Jesus took on human flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary—so that He would be able to suffer and die for you, receiving your punishment for sin, and setting you free from sin, death, and hell through His blood-bought forgiveness. That is the love of God—selfless and self-giving, even to death on a cross. No other religion has that Good News message. No other religion has the life-saving, life-changing power of the Gospel of the love of God demonstrated in word and action by the Incarnate Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ.
And that Gospel is your gift. It is the gift of sins forgiven—all of your failures to love God and to love your neighbor are paid for in full by the Savior. Your selfishness is forgiven. Your greed is forgiven. Your self-absorption, forgiven. The love of God given in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has set you free from sin and death and makes you different people. By means of the Gospel Word and the Sacraments of Baptism and Lord’s Supper, the Holy Spirit makes you new creations in Christ so that God’s love in Jesus enables you to love God and to love one another. By grace through faith, you have been born of God so that you are able to live God’s love. The life of love that God gives you by His grace is a life in which you are truly able to love others in word and in deed.
Perhaps this story used by Pastor Ken Klaus during his Lutheran Hour sermon from February 2, 2003, will illustrate a life that loves others with the love of Christ. “A good many years ago during a Massachusetts winter, a brother and sister were walking on the ice. He was nine and she was eleven. They hit a thin patch and fell through. Kicking to the surface, they yelled for help. Summoned by their screams, a man came running, dove into the icy water, and tried to help them both. Seeing his difficulty, the nine-year-old boy shouted, ‘Never mind me, save Annette.’ That’s what happened. The man saved Annette. The boy died.”
Pastor Klaus continued, “I’ve often wondered why the boy called, ‘Never mind me, save Annette.’ Was it a rational decision? Did he debate the matter? After weighing the pros and cons, did he conclude that he would rather see his sister saved than himself? There was no time. No, that boy—a Christian boy—instantly said what he did because it was part of him. From home, from church, from parents, or a teacher, he had learned to have Jesus as his authority. It’s not normal to say, ‘Never mind me, save Annette.’ But it is possible when Jesus is the authority in your life.”
“Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God. Indeed, everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” That boy loved the Lord and his sister more than himself. He was a new creation in Christ. The love of God is selfless and self-giving. He enables our love for each other to be just that, selfless and self-giving. Jesus said on the night in which He was betrayed, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13 ESV). He laid down His life for us on a cross so that we might receive His love in abundance and so be able to love others in the same way.
On this Eve of Christmas, rejoice greatly in God’s gift of love to you in sending His One-of-a-Kind Son, Jesus Christ, to be your Savior. Receive the love of Christ as He gives you His love through Word and Sacrament in the forgiveness of sins and in the new life of faith. In His power and grace, love one another in word and in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). Amen.
 Bruce G. Schuchard, Concordia Commentary: 1-3 John (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012), 450.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 27 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 65.
 Jeff Skolnick, “Lessons from a Christmas Carol,” Psychology Today, December 15, 2013, accessed December 20, 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/awaken-your-brain/201312/lessons-christmas-carol.
 Bruce G. Schuchard, Concordia Commentary: 1-3 John (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012), 448-449.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 30 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 294.
 The Rev. Kenneth R. Klaus, Stories from The Lutheran Hour, Vol. 1 (St. Louis: International LLL, 2004), 18.