Perhaps the most famous verse in the world is John 3:16. For years, almost every sports event had someone holding up a sign with John 3:16 on it. It’s not uncommon for children to list it as their favorite verse. And even people who never attend church find it warmly familiar. But have you ever thought of it as a Christmas verse? Christmas, after all, celebrates the reality of God’s love. And John 3:16 specifically is about that topic. Let’s break the verse down into four Christmas principles.
1. Love came down for the world.
"For God so loved the world . . ." (John 3:16a)
Think about this first statement carefully. God so loved the world. The sentence in the original biblical Greek is constructed to emphasize God’s love. In other words, this phrase is saying, “God really, deeply, extraordinarily, from the depths of His heart loved the world.”
What makes this so remarkable is not that the fact that God loves. Certainly any conception of a good God would have to include love. But what makes this passage so remarkable is the object of God’s love . . . the world. The world is a bad place. Pick up your newspaper and you’ll read of murder, greed, lust, selfishness and a whole host of other major problems. We are creatures plagued with deep issues. We are not attractive to a perfect being. Yet, He so loves us!
Years ago, when my youngest daughter was three, she was in a school play dressed as a cow. Well, plagued with the thought that I would be a terrible dad if I didn’t videotape every play my kids ever performed in, I charged up the huge video camera we had then, focused the lens directly on her, and started to record. Imagine my surprise when the first image was of her picking her nose in front of God and all creation! It wasn’t her most attractive moment. But here’s the deal. Why did I take the time to bring her to the play, unpack a camera that could kill an elephant, and video tape her concert? Because I love her. I deeply, deeply adore her, from the depths of my heart. Or, to use biblical language, I so love her.
We’re part of the world that love came down for and we are messes. Every single one of us has flaws, and I mean deep flaws. There are things about us that are ugly and make us cringe to even think about. In some sense, we all have our fingers in our noses. But you know what. God adores us! Love came down for the world!
2. Love came down through sacrifice.
". . . that he gave his one and only Son . . ." (John 3:16b)
It’s remarkable that God loves us, but can you imagine how much God must love His son? If you read about the life of Jesus in the Bible, you can’t help but fall in love with Him. His life includes touching the sick, feeding the hungry, and loving the outcast. He is the kindest person to ever walk the planet. And he showed up on Christmas morning as a precious baby in a manger. Can you imagine how hard it must have been for God the Father to give up that child at the first Christmas? That’s how much love came down to us! What sacrifice!
You may be thinking, “God doesn’t love me. How could He love me with all my problems? I don’t even love myself.” Well, I want to encourage you to look at the manger and the cross. God so loved you that He gave His one and only Son to give you the great news that you can be forgiven and have peace with God forever. God gave Jesus to the earth to give us forgiveness and peace with Him.
3. Love came down to those who believe.
". . .that whoever believes in him . . ." (John 3:16c)
Have you ever found a perfect gift for someone and you just knew, “Yes, this is it! This is the best gift I could give!” Well, that’s what the gift of Jesus is like.
But, as with any gift, there is one requirement that you and I have to fulfill in order to get it. We have to accept the gift! The gift will not be ours until we actually reach out and receive it.
John 3:16 says that God has a present for you this Christmas and it’s an eternal, intimate, wonderful relationship with Him that will touch every area of your life. It will give you better health and meaning, improve your relationships, guide you to your purpose in life, and give you a pipeline to the greatest counselor in the universe, God’s Holy Spirit. But the requirement is that you have to receive the gift. The word “believes” above has the connotation of receiving. It means to trust that Jesus was the Son of God and accept His death on the cross alone as the payment for your sins.
You may not know God. You know about Him and admire Him; but you don’t know Him in your heart. Your inner life isn’t intimate with Him. It’s like you watch Him on television, but He’s never been in your living room. Yet somewhere deep inside of you there is a hole. You know something is missing. That void is Jesus . . . an intimate, life-transforming, deep relationship with God. And God is offering you that gift today.
If you haven’t accepted that gift, why not do it this Christmas?
4. Love came down to lift us up.
". . . shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16d)
What does it mean to accept the gift of Jesus, the gift of Christmas? It means eternal life starting now and moving on into the afterlife. It means having a big dose of God in this life and living in Heaven after death. It means God lifts us up eternally.
One of my favorite Christmas carols is “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Remember the line, “God and sinners reconciled?” That’s talking about the payment of Jesus on the cross so that we sinners can be reconciled to God. That’s why Jesus came. Christmas isn’t just about silver and gold, greeting cards, and Santa Clause. It is about eternal life. This Christmas, be lifted up because the love of God Himself actually came down for you. Merry Christmas!!!