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God Loves You

John 3:16-21

God loves you.

Those three words, perhaps more than any others, sum up the message of the Bible, and the essence of the Christian faith, and the meaning of Christmas. “God loves you.” To underscore that point, let’s meditate together upon each one of these words…

God loves you.

Think about this: more than your friends, more than your boss or your client, more than your neighbors or your fellow church members, more than your schoolmates or your golfing partners, more even than your family does God love you. Do you grasp what that means for us? It means that we are not abandoned as foundlings on the doorstep of an uncaring world. It means that the hand that fashioned the sun and the moon and the stars, the hand that stilled the stormy seas and guided pilgrims through the wilderness—that same hand has taken hold of your life and mine. It means that He whom some say is dead, He whose existence some doubt or deny, He whom some have no hope for—He loves you and me. It means that this One to whom the little child speaks before going to sleep, the One who has inspired the likes of Michaelangelo and Bach and Neubegonne and Beethoven, this One who makes Himself known in moments and blossoming flowers, in rolling waves and towering mountains—this One is at our sides from the moment of our birth and on through the valley of death’s dark shadow.

Oh, yes, it’s a staggering thought to try to wrap your mind and your heart around, but it can be done. The God who is eternal, and unchangeable, the God who has created everything that is, the God who is the source, the well-spring, of all goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice and love—this God loves you. As the hymn-writer has it:

I know not how that Bethlehem’s Babe
Could in the Godhead be;
I only know the Manger Child
Has brought God’s life to me.

Then…God loves you.

Once there was a little girl who was afraid of the dark. One night her mother was tucking her into bed and she started crying. She didn’t want her mother to leave. She didn’t want to be alone. Her mother tried to calm her by saying: “Honey, don’t be afraid. Remember—God is everywhere.” That didn’t help at all. Instead the little girl cried all the more and through her tears she blurted out: “I don’t want God to be everywhere, I want God to be somewhere.”

We can understand that, can’t we? I mean, it is not enough for us to affirm that God is everywhere. We want Him to be somewhere—we want Him to be close to us. The amazing thing is that that is what God wanted, too. He wanted to be somewhere. He wanted to be close to us, because He loves us. And that’s why Jesus was born. That’s why God took on him our flesh and blood and dwelt among us. And in that Christmas event, which still happens in your heart and mine, God in Jesus Christ says to us: “I have come to be with you because I love you.”

You see, we do not have a God who is beyond our human feelings, a God who is unable to be touched by our trials and tribulations, a God who cannot really understand what it means to be a man or a woman in a world like this. No. He is a God who calls us by our names. He knows the number of hairs in our heads. He comforts us in distress and He disturbs us in comfort. He cries with us and He laughs with us. Our burdens are His burdens. Our troubles are His troubles. Our sufferings are His sufferings. He wants to talk with us and He wants us to talk with Him. He longs for us to love Him with our very lives and He a rendezvous with destiny for us to keep. All because—because He loves us. He loves you and He loves me—loves us enough to come to us in Jesus—loves us enough even to die for us on the cross. Once again the writer of the hymn:

I know not how that Calvary’s cross
A world from sin could free
I only know it’s matchless love
Has brought God’s love to me.

And then…God loves you.

He loves you in season and out, in a crowd and all alone. He loves when you’re at peace and when you’re frantic with worry, when you’re working and when you’re playing, when you’re being kind and charming and gracious and when you’re being mean and stubborn and hateful, when you’re succeeding and when you’re failing, when you’re winning and when you’re losing, when you’re traveling and when you’re at home, when you’re sick and when you’re well, when you’re living and when you’re dying. God loves you!

After the Second World War, the great German preacher, Helmut Thieliche, received a letter from a friend who had been in prison during the war and had suffered terribly. In the letter he related to Thieliche how during the early part of his imprisonment, the horror and the despair of it all had obliterated his faith. But then he went on to describe how one day in the midst of that God-forsaken prison, he sensed the mysterious presence of someone else with him. The letter ended like this:

“I cannot forget the experience of that hour when I saw the Man of Nazareth standing before me—as a man who went out to be poor with the poor, to be hungry with the hungry to suffer with the suffering, to die with the dying. That’s the way He came to me; and when He touched my life, I knew for the first time what it meant to say, ‘God loves me.’ I can never forget that moment, for it has made all the difference in my life.”

That’s a feeling I can understand, and that’s why I take to this pulpit Sunday after Sunday to affirm that Jesus is the only answer to the riddle of life in the world. And that is why all I can even say to someone fighting against some dreaded, crippling disease, all I can say to someone beset with relentless temptation or haunted by painful memories, all I can say to someone who has run into a brick wall and feels there is nowhere to turn, all I can say to someone caught in the strangulation grip of death, all I can say to someone plunged into despair by a world gone mad in war and violence and hatred—all I can ever say is “God loves you in Jesus Christ.” That’s all I can say, but that’s all I ever need to say.

For that is the message of the Bible. That is the essence of the Christian faith. That is the meaning of Christmas. God loves you. His great strong hand is reaching out through Jesus Christ to touch your life. God loves you. Remember that. Never, ever forget it. It makes all the difference in the world. More than that…it can make all the difference in your life…

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