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so loved – advent 2022



For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

For God so loved…

The word “so”, when used as an adverb, can have a few different meanings. It can express the degree or extent of something, or it can also declare something that is definite. For example: “The music is so loud”, or “The volume of the music must be just so”.

One statement is expressing the extremeness of the sound of music playing, while the other is declaring the absoluteness of what level the volume of the music must be.

In this Scripture, both meanings can be applied.

As a way of expressing the extent of God’s love, we can read it as “God loved so much – so intensely and so extremely – that he gave…” As a definitive statement, we can read it as “There is no question about God’s love, it is just so, and therefore he gave…”

Either way, we recognize that God loved us extremely and most purposefully, and because of this intense and absolute love, he gave his most precious possession: his one and only Son.

Have you ever been loved like that? Maybe you have a person in your life that loves you so completely that they would be willing to give their most precious possession to you, or even further, they would die for you. If so, that is a gift. But would they be willing to give, or to die, for all? Is their love so expansive and perfect that they would lay down their own life for that of a stranger, a sinner, or someone they don’t particularly like? To be so loved by One who knows the faults and the sins of all of us is a love I don’t think any of us can begin to fathom. And not one single human being on this earth can honestly say we can so love in the same way.

It (John 3:16) tells us of the width of the love of God. It was the world that God so loved. It was not a nation; it was not the good people; it was not only the people who loved him; it was the world. The unlovable and the unlovely, the lonely who have no one else to love them, the man who loves God and the man who never thinks of him, the man who rests in the love of God and the man who spurns it–all are included in this vast inclusive love of God. As Augustine had it: “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.”

William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible Series, Revised Edition.

God so loved all.

This kind of love is beyond comprehension.

This kind of love causes our hearts to pound in our chests, especially when we begin grasp the enormity of it all.

This kind of love should move us…compel us…humble us…to shed our pride, our broken systems, and our preferences, and love sacrificially.

This kind of love should undo us…wreck us…change us.

Christmas is just the beginning of the love story between Christ and mankind. It was the spark that ignited a new era of love between God and his people. It was the fulfillment of prophecy and law. It was Immanuel. It was God with us. No longer far off and distant, this love came down, in the form of a human – a tiny, precious baby – and was among us. Flesh and bone, eye-to-eye, rubbing up alongside the world, feeling our feelings, carrying our sorrows and soothing our pain. He came because he so loved.

Christ’s arrival was the start of a journey that eventually led to the cross. His mission was set. There was no other way. Wrapped in swaddling clothes, the story of redemption made its way into our fractured world. Love was born. A love that had never been experienced on earth before invaded the darkness, stepped into our brokenness, and extended itself to any who would accept it and believe.

So loved.

I have been reflecting on this love for several weeks. How has being so loved by God changed me? What evidence is there in my life that reflects this kind of love? And what is my response?

To be so loved does demand a response. Not because this is a conditional kind of love, but because such an unconditional expression of love compels us.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

John 3:17-18

When our hearts come face-to-face with this extravagant and unconditional love, they are required to make a choice: believe it or deny it. There really is no middle ground. We are either compelled to embrace this love with belief and obedience, or we choose not to accept this reality. This love demands a response, and there are only two options.

If, when a man is confronted with Jesus, his soul responds to that wonder and beauty, he is on the way to salvation. But if, when he is confronted with Jesus, he sees nothing lovely, he stands condemned. His reaction has condemned him. God sent Jesus in love. He sent him for that man’s salvation; but that which was sent in love has become a condemnation. It is not God who has condemned the man; God only loved him; the man has condemned himself.

William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible Series, Revised Edition.

Beyond believing and accepting the One who lavished this love on mankind, being so loved drives us to do something. We don’t do in order to receive God’s love. We do as a result of God’s love. So, what do we do? What are the actions that follow acceptance?

We obey.

We love.

We follow Christ.

We put on humility.

We give.

We die to self.

I think those of us who struggle to obey, love, follow, show humility, give sacrificially and die to our selfish nature are those of us who have not truly grasped the love that God gave us on Christmas. We may mentally take note of it, but our hearts have yet to  receive it. Because being so loved should leave us trembling and aware of the depths God went to in order to save us and redeem us and draw us back to himself. It is too powerful to not be transformed.

For Christ’s love compels us.

2 Corinthians 5:14

What about you? Are you wrestling to even accept and acknowledge Christ’s love for you? Have you yet to receive it, believe and enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ?

If so, what it holding you back? Are there fears or past hurts that seem to stand between you and redemption?

Maybe you have accepted this love, but you struggle to truly embrace its power and extravagance. You are carrying around a lot of fear and wounds, and it is hard to comprehend being so loved. And, in turn, it is difficult to express this unconditional love to others.

Without shame and without pressure, can I just encourage you to consider just how much God loves you right now – imperfect and flawed? Just take a moment to sit in that space…reflecting on how it feels to be so loved.

God didn’t send his son, Jesus, for a privileged few. He sent Jesus for all. God wasn’t, and still isn’t, looking for a perfect person upon whom he can lavish his undeserving love. Jesus came for the lovely and the unlovely. He came for the Abraham’s and the King David’s. He came for the Tamar’s and the Rahab’s. He came for the Jews and the Gentiles.

He came for the rest of us – for all of us.

And all he asks for is our hearts…our obedience…our trust…and our willingness to give his love to others in return.

Christmas is coming. In just a few short days we will gather with family, or attend a church service, and – perhaps – engage in traditions, old and new. As we anticipate the culmination of this season of Advent in the warmth and joy of Christmas Day, may our hearts be further challenged to receive and give this incredible gift of being so loved. Without pause, may we be quick to give our lives in obedience and embrace those who Christ also came to save. What a very different world this would be if we could simply live as so loved.

What can I give Him,

Poor as I am? –

If I were a Shepherd

I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man

I would do my part, -

Yet what I can I give Him, -

Give my heart.

Christina Rosetti (1872)

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