One of the miracles of Christmas is that even in a modern society, where you often find yourself seemingly besieged by rampant materialism, the true meaning of Christmas is never entirely lost. Even nonbelievers are moved by the symbolism of an innocent child who represents humanity’s hope and who came to earth to invite each person to reach out to God and to one another. I cannot imagine a more beautiful story.
Christmas is best enjoyed when it isn’t centered on decorations, presents, or festivities, but on My gift of love to the world. Love is the essence of Christmas. Christmas is best celebrated by taking quality time with your family and friends, and cherishing and celebrating the love you share. Sadly, love can get lost amid the Christmas hustle and bustle. Sometimes it’s covered up by the decorations and gifts, the endless shopping, and the Christmas dinner and parties.
Ebenezer Scrooge and the Grinch—have you ever sympathized with them as the Christmas season approaches? Or perhaps not to that extreme, but maybe you’ve never felt the warm fuzzies that everyone else has? And would you like to figure out how to have a better Christmas this year?
A few years ago, our neighbors gave their female dog to a friend of theirs. Some time later, this old man died and the dog journeyed to our street, but our neighbors no longer lived there. As time went by, the dog got scrawnier and more forlorn. Soon she dug a hole under our fence and started to eat what our two dogs left in their dishes or on the ground nearby.
Arguments with my parents marred my college years. We argued about how much time I spent on expanding my social life, my newfound love for television talk shows, my desire to buy a motorcycle, and a myriad of other things that are trivial in retrospect but were highly emotional issues for me. At the time, I saw my parents as old-fashioned guardians who were blocking my way to the full enjoyment of the prime of my life.
God’s unconditional love has no bounds, is unchanging and without limitations. It is given freely, no matter what. Each of us has sinned, and sin brings separation from God. Nevertheless, God loves us. It doesn’t mean He loves all that we do, but He loves us. In fact, He loves humanity so much that He made it possible for the breach caused by our sins and wrongdoing to be bridged through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”1
The air was heavy with impending rain as I made my way on foot through Chiba, Japan. As I glanced at the low gray clouds, I chided myself for not bringing an umbrella. It seemed that in a minute or two the heavens would burst open, but two minutes came and went.
Jesus gave a simple command: “Love your neighbor.”1 However, “neighbor” is pretty vague, and some wise guy asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”2 Jesus answered with the story about a traveler on the way to Jericho who was ambushed by thieves, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Two people passed him by but didn’t stop to help.3
I can speculate on what each might have been thinking as he passed that poor guy on the side of the road.
He lay covered in white hospital sheets, hooked up to a tangle of tubes and wires. As I approached, I barely recognized him—the pasty skin, the sunken cheeks—but when he opened his eyes and smiled at me, it was all I could do to keep from jumping into his arms like I always had. Grandpa, whom I loved more than anyone else in the whole world, had had a serious heart attack.
Most of us are familiar with the phrase “Love never fails.”1 It’s illustrated in children’s devotionals. It’s woven into songs, stories, and poems. I can’t remember a time when this scripture wasn’t familiar to me.
In my younger years, I took it to mean that love was always strong enough to get what it wanted. “Love” held the trump card and could somehow get its way. I guess I had a somewhat manipulative idea of love. I thought it could outsmart, convince, reason and persuade to encourage whatever results were necessary.