I grew up going to a church building every Sunday morning. Sadly, I knew nothing about the Bible, Jesus, or the gospel. As a result, religion was intensely impersonal and quite frankly irrelevant. I treated the Christmas story with requisite respect but there was no marvel whatsoever. The nativity could not move the needle for me.
This all shifted dramatically upon my conversion. And I remember that it was quite surprising for me. In the months following my conversion some good, old Christmas hymns had made snuck onto the airwaves in the car I was riding in and I was shredded. Suddenly the story had life, texture, and relevance. Jesus, the Son of God, became man for me. All of the stories and the songs pointed to a central truth: God saves sinners! And I was (am) a sinner indeed.
Previously I had thought about the Christmas story of Advent like I might think about other stories that we watch on television during the holidays. It had its place in the “canon” of cultural entertainment and consumption. But, upon seeing Christ through the eyes of faith I realized in fact that he loved me and came for me. As Paul writes in Galatians 2, “he loved me and gave himself for me.” Those two verbs are so intensely personal.
When we think about the incarnation we think about the cross. We have to think about the fact that the cross was God’s means for dealing with us and our biggest problems. While we do not know everything about ourselves, we do know that there are within the mansions of our hearts some very dark, frightening rooms. There are places that we fear to enter in but only hear stories about. We have seen flashes of anger, selfishness, bitterness, and self-preservation that make us shudder. There are countless rooms in our hearts that are professionally decorated with such vices.
God knows everything about all of that. He knows what we have done and what we are capable of doing. He knows it all. And yet he loves us and gave himself for us.
Some might say, “What kind of love is this that knows about such wickedness and yet still loves? How can anyone love a monster?”
That’s just the thing—this intimate knowledge is accompanied by infinite love. To truly love you have to sacrifice, you have to give. This is the nature of true love, isn’t it? Love gives. Love shares. Love blesses. Here we are reminded that God set his love upon someone like me. Jesus gave himself for me. This is a redemptive love. It is a love that sees, acknowledges, and acts based upon our own personal brokenness.
When these two truths come rushing to the fore we see that God knows everything about us (he knows us to the core, that is intimately) and yet at the same time he loves us to the end (he loves us redemptively, that is infinitely). Friends, this is so personal, so powerful!
How many can say that they have friends that truly know everything about them but yet love them anyway? To have such a relationship is truly a rare blessing. However, this is the very core of the Christian gospel: God knows everything about us and yet still loves us through it all. We have never had such a friend nor will we ever. It is love from another land! It is a bond conceived of and secured in the counsel room of the Triune God.
This Christmas season please remember that the story of Jesus’s birth is more than just a story for people “out there.” It is a Little wonder then that the Apostle Paul breaks out into praise in the middle of a letter to a church. He writes with such devotion and delight. He was moved by the glorious truth of the incarnation: “he loved me and gave himself for me.” Let yourself today be moved by the personal and powerful truth of the gospel.
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