God Demonstrated His Love Back to all sermons

Date: December 12, 2014

Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen

Category: Christmas

Scripture: 1 John 4:9–4:9

Tags: Christmas, love, incarnation, life, gifts, giving

Synopsis: Every year at Christmas time, the world throws a big party – but many forget to invite the Guest of Honor. To counteract that possibility, in this message (God Demonstrated His Love) Pastor Cam leads the congregation in memorizing a single verse of Scripture (1 John 4:9) that beautifully summarizes the message of Christmas.

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I want you to use your imagination this morning. I want you to imagine that it is your birthday. You get up in the morning with a sense of excitement. It is your special day. You meet a friend for breakfast. But the entire meal passes and nothing is said. There is no acknowledgment. You go to work. Nothing is said. You are with friends in the evening – still no one says anything. You go home at night and you realize that not one single person has wished you a happy birthday or given you a present or even a card. How would you feel?

Now stretch your imagination a little more. It is your birthday, and everyone you know is getting together to throw a big party. There are lots of decorations everywhere. There are lights strung up. Everyone is buying gifts. There is lots of food. Music is playing. The only thing is, it’s your birthday, but no one thought to invite you to the party. You show up anyway, but no one pays any attention to you. And all those presents everyone has been buying and wrapping? Not one of them has your name on it. Then they bring in the cake, beautifully decorated with pretty candles. But when you look at the cake, it reads: “Happy birthday…” and then there is just a big smear in the icing where your name ought to be. Everyone starts to sing: “Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy birthday dear mmmmmm. Happy Birthday to you!” Once again, I ask, how would you feel?

When you stop and think about it, isn’t that how much of the world celebrates Christmas? The world throws a party but doesn’t invite the guest of honor.

A great deal of clutter has been allowed to accumulate around Christmas over the centuries and the generations. Santa Claus and reindeer, Christmas lights and Christmas trees, Christmas cookies, family gatherings, lots of eating and above all, lots and lots of shopping. While most of the clutter is harmless and good fun, I believe that there is a genuine risk that amidst all the hustle and bustle, we may miss, ignore or forget the true meaning of our celebrations. Even as Christians, we may fail to properly acknowledge the guest of honor.

Today, I want to share with you a single verse of the Bible that strips away all the clutter and states in simple words what Christmas is all about. I have two reasons for doing this. One is to help us as followers of Christ to keep our Christmas celebrations clear and focused – to be sure that we don’t forget the true “reason for the season”. The other is to give us a simple and concise way of sharing with our friends, neighbors and colleagues what Christmas means and why we are celebrating.

The verse is 1 John 4:9, and I am using the New International Version, because I think it says it more clearly and simply: This is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Today we are going to memorize this verse together. That way you will always remember the true meaning of Christmas and what it is we are celebrating. You will be able to explain Christmas to your friends and relatives.

When I memorize, it is helpful to take the verse apart into short phrases and memorize them one at a time. So that is what we will do. And I will explain each section as we memorize it together.

This is how God showed his love among us…

Let’s repeat that phrase together until we master it….

Christmas is about love. Every human being is born with a deep longing to be loved. We are born asking the question: Does anyone love me?

Have you ever held a new born baby? Hold him/her close. Look into the baby’s eyes. He or she wants to know, on a very basic and fundamental level: Does anyone love me? We spend the rest of our lives looking for the answer to that question.

We spend our lives looking for love. Sometimes, we look for love in the wrong places. Or we look for it in the wrong way. But we are always looking for someone to love us, to truly care about us.

God is the only one who truly offers the kind of love we all so desperately need. In this same paragraph in 1 John 4 the love of God is mentioned again and again.

In verse 16 we are told that “God is love.” Verse 19 tells us that “We love because he first loved us.”

Over and over God says to us: “I love you.” God loves you. God loves me.

But God doesn’t just say he loves us. He showed it. Let’s repeat our first phrase again:

This is how God showed his love among us…

The word “showed” means to demonstrate, to make visible or known something that has been hidden or unknown. We all want to be loved. And we want that love to be visible. We want the ones who love us to show it. Otherwise, how will we know? Words are good. But actions speak louder than words. How do we know God loves us? This is how God showed his love among us… Christmas is when God showed us his love.

Let’s repeat the phrase again until we have it memorized.

So, how did God show his love? The next phrase answers that question.

He sent his one and only Son into the world…

This is the event that we are celebrating at Christmas. That word “sent” is very significant. Ordinary babies aren’t sent. An ordinary baby begins its existence at the moment of conception in the womb. But this verse tells us that God “sent his Son into the world.” You see, Jesus already existed before he was born. In the opening words of John’s Gospel, we read the words: “In the beginning was the Word (referring to Jesus) and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Son existed as the Word from the very beginning.

Jesus prayed in John 17:5: “And now Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

The Father and the Son always existed in eternal oneness and fellowship, enjoying the glory of heaven. There is a wonderful mystery here, this eternal existence of the Son of God and of his oneness with the Father. But at Christmas, a very significant event took place: the Father sent his one and only, his unique Son into the world.

Usually, Christmas is a time when people like to be together with their families. Planes and trains and buses are always full at Christmas time, as people try to get home to be together with their families. But on the first Christmas, God sent his only and unique Son away from home. He sent him from heaven into the world.

And we are told here that he did it to show how much he loved us.

Let’s put our two phrases together: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world.

John 3:16 teaches us this same wonderful truth. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”

We give gifts to show our love. God loved us so much that he gave us the most precious thing he had; his unique and only Son. This is why gift giving has become a tradition among many Christians. We give gifts to each other to show love to each other, but it is ultimately a way to remember the greatest gift of all. God gave us his Son.

God loves you. God loves me. And he showed his love by sending his Son into the world.

Repeat: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world.

Now we only have one more phrase to go.

That we might live through him.

Repeat and memorize the final phrase.

I said earlier that we are all born with a thirst and a hunger for love. I believe we are also born with a thirst and hunger for life. Not just existence, but real life; Life that has meaning and purpose.

Jesus came into the world to give us that kind of life. He said in John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Full life. Abundant life. Meaningful life. We all crave it. Jesus came to give it to us.

We might ask: Why did God need to send his Son into the world so that we might live? Aren’t we already alive?

It is important here to distinguish between two kinds of life; Physical life and spiritual life. Yes all of us here have physical life. But do we all have spiritual life?

Here is what God says in Ephesians 2:1: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”

According to the Bible, every one of us is born physically alive, but spiritually dead. We are born with a sin nature, and as we grow, we begin to increasingly express that sinfulness in our words and our actions.

We can define sin as “doing what God tells us not to do, and failing to do what he tells us to do.” The Bible also tells us in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

And sin has consequences. It separates us from God. We are separated from God now relationally. And if we die in our sins, we will be separated from God for all eternity. That is why Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are dead in our transgressions and our sins.

But now let’s review our verse together: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

He came to give us life; spiritual life. How did he do that? The answer is found in the very next verse of I John 4:10: “This is love; not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

The Father sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins, to be our Savior. Our sins demanded a penalty. Sin has to be punished. But God sent his Son to come and die in our place, to take our punishment. Because he did that, we can now have life. Real life. Eternal life.

The rest of John 3:16 puts it all together: “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.” The abundant life that begins now and goes on forever.

This is the true message of Christmas. Let’s review our verse together:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Let’s review and make sure you have it memorized!

That’s what we celebrate at Christmas time. But there is still a final step that is left to us. It is described in John 1:10-11:

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

This is the tragedy of the Christmas story. He came to his own world, the world he made. He even came to his own nation and his own people the Jews. But they refused to recognize him. They rejected him.

Many in the world still reject him. Even many people who celebrate Christmas refuse to acknowledge Jesus. That is the bad news. But here is the good news in verse 12:

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Have you received the Christ of Christmas? Have you believed in his name as the Son of God who came into the world to be our Savior from sin? Have you received his gift of eternal life?

Are you prepared to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas this Christmas season?

Are you ready to share the message of Christmas with the people around you? Why don’t you ask God to give you at least one opportunity during this Christmas season to share this verse with someone?

Let us repeat our verse together one final time: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is your favorite Christmas memory or tradition?
  2. Read 1 John 4:9 in different Bible translations. How does this verse capture the essential meaning of Christmas?
  3. “Christmas is about love.” How is this sentence born out in 1 John 4:9 and the events of Christmas?
  4. Why is the word “sent” in this verse so significant? What are the implications of this word and what light does it shed on Jesus and his identity? Consider John 1:1 and John 17:5 for additional insight into this discussion.
  5. What kind of life is this verse talking about?
  6. How do John 3:16 and John 1:11-12 help us fill in the details of the theology behind 1 John 4:9?
  7. As you pray together – ask God for an opportunity to share this verse (as the meaning of Christmas) with someone during this Christmas season.