However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. [Ephesians 2:4-5 CEB]
This coming Sunday is the second Sunday in Advent. In the worship services we will light the second candle, representing love. Love is a word that in the English language we use in a variety of contexts with a myriad of meanings. For example, I would use the same word to say that I “love” my children that I would use to say I “love” pizza. But there is a huge difference in the connotations and significance between these two loves. This is because there is actually only one word in the English language for “love,” so it covers a lot of territory.
As a comparison, the Greek language has at least four words that convey the meaning of love, each with its own nuances: agape, eros, philia, and storge are the most commonly used. I won’t cover the nuanced meanings of each in this limited space. You can Google them.
So, we must ask ourselves, what is this great love that God has given to us through the birth of the Christ child who we celebrate at Christmas? What is the meaning behind this love that it gets its own candle on the second Sunday Advent?
The love that was given to us through Christ in the manger addresses a great need that we all have in our human nature—though it may not be in our nature to admit it. We all have a need to be wanted, to be appreciated, to be needed. To know that we matter, even if we have made mistakes, grievous mistakes, sins. We want, as the theme song to an 80s TV show says, to be "where everyone knows your name." We hope to not only exist, but to be cherished and precious. Loved.
The world we live in isn’t always programmed to convey these messages. In fact, it is shouting the opposite messages to us constantly, and often times we can feel dead inside.
But God came to us to punch a hole in the destructive messages that bombard us and the world. God did so in a real way. He gave us His son, who came into the world as we all did—as a baby. He came to show us that we are loved. We are surrounded with God’s love—a love that we may never adequately be able to describe in English, but a love that will adequately, actually abundantly, fill us with hope, peace, and joy. It shows us that we are God’s children and we do matter. Your mistakes do not define you if you take them to God. Don’t let anyone or the world tell you differently. We are made in God’s image and that cannot be taken away from us. It is sealed in our innermost being by this babe in the manger.