Oddly enough, the verse from the Bible that best sums up Christmas – from a Christian perspective – is one of the best-known in the New Testament. It’s John 3:16 – “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” That verse speaks to me of three simple things.
There’s a fact – “God loved the world ...” Not just the nice people; the good people; the charming people; but the world – the unlovable and the unlovely; those who are loved by no-one else; those who never give Him a thought; those who rebel against Him, and use His name as nothing other than a profanity. Love, according to the Christian Gospel, is the very mainspring of the Being of God. “God is love”, writes the early apostle, John. (I Jn.4:8,16). And part of the wonder of this is that it’s not a scientific theory to be changed in the light of fresh evidence or experimentation; it’s not a legal speculation to be argued over in a judicial court; it’s not some popular idea to be maintained only while it’s fashionable. It’s a Biblical fact - “God so loved the world”. And it’s the basic message behind this Christmas season.
But the love, even of Almighty God, if it were merely passive and un-communicated, would not be sufficient. And so, after directing our thoughts towards the fact, this well-known verse goes on to speak of an act. “God loved the world so much – that He gave His only-begotten Son…” And here is the love of God being put into action. God so loved, that He gave. And He gave sacrificially – even giving Himself in the Person of the only-begotten Son.
Christmas is traditionally the time for giving. And isn’t it wonderful to remember that, at the very first Christmas, the greatest and best Gift that could ever be, was given? God gave His own Son; putting His love into action; giving the very best that He had; giving all that He had.
A fact; an act; and a pact. That’s the third thing of which that well-known verse speaks. “... that everyone who has faith in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God’s love; God’s Gift; are not mere handouts. Free they may be – but the Christian faith teaches that they are only so to those who are willing to enter into a living relationship with that same God through the Son; only to those who have faith in Him; who put their trust in Him; who receive Him with humble and thankful hearts.
And that’s the true heart of CHRISTmas!