I have written about 1 Corinthians 13 before, but I recently came across a different version. This one is a Christmas version, and I cannot take credit for the writing. It goes like this. If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator. If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but I do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook. If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing. If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata, but do not focus on those I love the most, I have missed the point.
In other words: Love stops to hug a child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens. Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way but is thankful they are there to be in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. LOVE NEVER FAILS. Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But the gift of love will endure.
By this time of the year most years, many of us are too tired to enjoy the holiday. We have shopped, wrapped, mailed, decorated and cooked/bakes until we are ready to drop. When we finally get to the Christmas Eve service we are done with the holiday. I have never read how the folks in Jesus day celebrated their birthdays, if they even did. Once the angels went back into heaven and the shepherds left, it was pretty quiet for Mary and Joseph. There were no extravagant parties and Jesus may have spent one birthday in Egypt. The first recorded celebration of Jesus birth was in 336 A.D. during the reign of the emperor Constantine. He was the first Christian Roman Emperor. The early church sometimes celebrated Christmas on January 6, the day they celebrated the Epiphany, which means the revelation that Jesus was God’s Son. It is also the traditional date of the arrival of the Wise Men.
Everyone celebrates the holiday differently. Growing up mine included lefse and lutefisk along with boiled potatoes and other non colored foods. Mincemeat pie and spritz cookies along with krumkake and rosettes were also a must. Some families only exchange three gifts because that is what the Wise Men brought. Others go all out, and some can afford very little. For many more it isn’t so much the trappings and the hustle and bustle that makes the holiday. It is the precious time spent with family and friends and friends who have become family. And this year nearly everything has changed because of COVID.
Sometimes we get so busy “doing” Christmas, we forget what the holiday is really all about. There is a song and a poem both entitled “Love came down at Christmas”. And we sing, “Of the Father’s Love begotten”. Both of these speak to what God did in the world when He sent His one and only Son. I have said it over and over again. Jesus came as a tiny baby, born just like the rest of us. He was ordinary, just like we are. He lived as we live, except in His 33 years He did not sin. That makes Him perfect. That also makes Him the only one who could make a way for us to return to the Lord in a relationship that is no longer tainted by sin. We read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” That is what Christmas is all about. Jesus came to pay the price for our sins and the manger points squarely towards the cross. We love because God first loved us, and that is what we share with one another. Everything else is just stuff. But love lasts forever. And God’s love never fails. We see it in the way He carefully and tenderly stoops down to take the dust of the earth to form the first human. We see it when He provided water from a rock for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. We see it in the prophecies of warning that His people ignored, and we see God’s love as His people are restored once again in Jerusalem after their exile.
We see the love of God in the tiny baby whose birth we celebrate and, in His healings, and teachings. We see the love of God throughout scripture. This is His story, about the way He continues to love His people even when they don’t love Him back. This is what we celebrate. We may have all the trappings and such, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if the Love of God in Jesus Christ doesn’t come first, then we have nothing.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt w