Americans, and much of the world right now, has sneezed. Out came Christmas in many forms. From decorations, to trees in homes, lights on the outside of our houses like little beacons in the darkness, and blown up Santa Clauses riding on top of things ranging from mobile homes to motorcycles; all with moving parts. Oh the comedy of it all. Am I immune to this? No. I have a tree, I have stockings over the mantle, I have lights on the outside of the house that I put up with the fear of death. Oh the comedy that, having gone through three liver transplants, I would cheat death on a shaky ladder by myself to hang colored lights on my roof.
I have spent more money on my wife, more money on my children, and more time thinking about these gifts than I should have. I admit this. But as I sit back and reflect on it all, I am convicted. I see a reality around me that I must speak on.
God has ordered things when He created creation in such a beautiful and tangible way. It’s not the things themselves that are evidently beautiful, but the order in which He has placed them that makes it all flow wonderfully; similar to a beautiful canvas. By the law of creation too, there is no less order and unity among men and women; for we are the highest and cheifest manifestation of His works. As God has molded the rest of the world into a beautiful frame by the first stamp of His finger and the first powerful Word from His mouth, so did He too engrave upon the hearts of men something that has indeed tied us together as well. It is a perpetual bond that unites the sons and daughters of men together.
This is the law of love. We love God, founded upon the essential dependence on and subordination of God as supremely good, and our love to each other, grounded upon our communion with each other and interest in each other as the image of God. Christ gives us the perfect succinct version of this in Matthew 22.37-39, “And he said to them, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The love we have for God is displayed also in our love for one another. Romans 13.10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Or again, just a few verses before, Romans 13.8, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” But sin has cut to pieces the divine love that knit us originally together, not only with each other, but with the Lord. Only Christ has enabled us to love freely and rightly now, as we take on His righteousness, and this is done only in faith.
Hugh Binning writes, “If the love of God and of one another had kept the throne, there had been a co-ordination and co-working of all men in their actions, for God’s glory and the common good of man. But now, self-love having enthroned itself, every man is for himself, and strives by all means, to make a concurrence of all things to his own interest and designs.”
Our unity in love is dissolved because of sin. Christmas is reminding me of this. We have so much self-love in what we do. We have turned all the realities of love back onto ourselves; we have become the center of our worship.
Now Jesus Christ, the Lord, has redeemed lost man and repaired these ruins that make up our castles, particularly restoring the fundamental law of creation and love; He alone unites us to God and to one another. He is truly our peace and has removed the seeds of discord between God and man and between man and man. This is the wonderful reality of 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. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might liver through him. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”
This is the very substance of the gospel. We love because we have been loved. Jesus Christ, particularly during this time of remembrance of His birth, and focusing on the true Gospel of His work, should move us to stop loving ourselves and focus on loving others.
Instead of loving others during this time, are we simply loving ourselves more deeply? What could be a viable test of this? Is the amount of money we are spending on others? Does that signify a self-love or a love for others? If we give without any hope of return, perhaps to those without the ability to give, then I would argue yes, we are beginning to get it. But test your bank accounts and see where you are spending your money this holiday season. I say this not to condemn, but as a lovely challenge to fix our eyes on the glory of Christ, and love as He loved us.