Lighting the fourth candle of Advent brightly illuminates our path towards Bethlehem, to a babe born in a humble manger, to the gift of redemption to all mankind. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” (John 3:16). Advent naturally leads us to this great gift —advent leads us directly to love.
Love is so misunderstood in our world today. Love is primarily considered an emotion and is even something we think of as falling into. While it’s true we feel love on an emotional level, what makes it most powerful is that love is also an action. Love is something you cultivate, something you choose, and something you give away. 1 Cor. 13:4-5 says “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
The love we are given at Christmas is also not that of emotion, but rather a redeeming love. It’s a love bought at a great price that costs us nothing and is given to us as a gift. Bonhoeffer powerfully explains, “The infinite mercy of the almighty God comes to us, descends to us in the form of a child, his Son. That this child is born for us, this son is given to us, that this human child and Son of God belongs to me, that I know him, have him, love him, that I am his and he is mine —on this alone my life now depends.”
This love freely given ultimately becomes our Savior’s greatest commandment to us: love one another as we have been loved.