Keith Urban has a song called “Under the Influence of Love.” The reality is that all of us today appear to be under the influence of love. Love is at the center of our popular culture – books, movies, TV shows. Love of some kind appears to be the underlying theme of most of our entertainment.
Just look at the love themes found in popular music: young love, falling in love, maturing love, love betrayed, lost love, longing for love — and that’s just one Taylor Swift album!
Seriously, our popular music is filled with the idea of love. Whitney Houston sang about The Greatest Love of All, Josh Groban sings You Are Loved, while Adele kept it simple and recorded a love song entitled “Love Song.” How many movies can you think of that don’t have love as a recurring theme – Titanic is about lost love, Avatar is about alien love, Twilight is about vampire love, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was about cross-cultural love – and it’s also about Greek food, but what’s not to love about Greek food?
This time of year you’ll hear a lot about love in connection with Christmas. Be with the ones you love on Christmas, give a gift to the one you love. The core truth behind the Christmas story is almost lost in a combination of emotion and consumerism that drives the Christmas season these days.
But that’s not to say love is a bad thing. Love is a wonderful thing – I love my wife, I love my sons, I love my family – well, most of them. I am sure that right now you can think of someone they love. Love is a wonderful gift of God.
In fact, love is also the recurring theme of the Bible; no wonder it has so often been called God’s love letter to us. Recently I had the privilege of speaking at The Bridge (the church plant where I serve as one of the teaching pastors) about 1 John 4:7-12:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (ESV)
Although this passage doesn’t talk about babies in a manger and wise men and shepherds, it’s hard to imagine a better verse for the season of Christmas, because this passage tells us why there is a Christmas. It tells us about a God who loves us – a God whose very nature is love. And that love drove Christ to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins – to pay for our sins with His own life. And because of what His love did for us, we can share that love with others in His name.
Over the next couple of weeks, you and I are going to be very busy. For students, there are final exams and papers to finish – but rest in the knowledge that your professors have to read all those exams and papers, so they’ll be busy too. For many of us there will be end-of-the-year activities in the office, getting things wrapped up. Then there’s the holiday rush – a blur of decorating and shopping and wrapping, parties and receptions and egg nog. There will be so much to do.
So right now, just stop and think about the greatest gift you will ever receive. Think about the Creator of the universe, who can calm the storm with a whisper, and think about how He emptied Himself of all that and came among us in the most vulnerable way possible, as a tiny baby. Now think if Him again, this time not as a child but now grown and hanging on a cross, shedding His blood for my sin and yours. Giving Himself for you because you could not pay the price that was required by God’s justice.
That is the most amazing gift you will ever receive, could ever receive. And God’s love is a gift to be shared.
Michael Duduit is founding Dean of the College of Christian Studies and the Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University. He also serves as Professor of Christian Ministry. He is the founder and still serves as Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, one of the nation’s premier publications for pastors. His email newsletter, Preaching Now, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences. He is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, Joy in Ministry: Messages from Second Corinthians, Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Communicators and Communicate With Power.