For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16 (NIV)
I have always understood this passage in the Gospel of John as a reference to just how much God loves us… so much that God gave His only begotten Son. Certainly, at this time of year, we do celebrate the incomprehensible magnitude of this gift. We celebrate the very real truth that God loved us enough to became one of us.
However, it was only in my adult life that a beloved professor informed me that this passage can also be read, “For God loved the world in this way, that He gave His only begotten son.” It is a subtle difference that reminds us not only how big God’s love is, but paints a beautiful portrait of what that love looks like. We celebrate the very real truth that God loves us by becoming one of us.
After all, it was as one of us that Jesus called his disciples by name. It was as one of us that Jesus ate and drank and slept and walked on water. And finally, it was as one of us, up on a cross, that God died for all of us.
In a small way, I saw a glimpse into the love of God on the day that I wrote about in today’s meditation, when I saw our mother hen protecting her family from that hawk. And in another way, by tending to our small flock of chickens I am beginning to understand the peculiar love that God has for us — God’s children.
Oh, I don’t make any pretense to be a farmer. Two of our chickens are well past their prime. They don’t lay much anymore, and they spend a lot of their day on their roost. However, all of our chickens have been named by our children, so they are safe… at least from us! We spend time feeding them, making sure that they have water, clean hay, and yes… an occasional hug. They sometimes get in the garden and make a mess. But we know them by name, and it doesn’t matter what they do (or don’t do!), it just matters that they are ours.
Maybe in the same way, this familiar passage reminds us that God’s love is peculiar because it is not dependent on our performance, but rather that God is with us and knows us by name. We are God’s, and we are safe.
My prayer for myself, our family, and God’s church during these twelve days of Christmas, is that we might be reminded again of both the incomprehensible magnitude and the beautiful portrait of God’s love that is Jesus, Emmanuel.
To read more from Geoffrey, you can visit his blog here: http://churchstopping.blogspot.com/.
"God comes to the woman who feels in exile in her own marriage. To the man who grieves the loss of life dreams. To the child who lives on the street. To the parents who struggle to feed and clothe their children. To the one whose loneliness or depression intensifies every Christmas." Click to watch video.