Love Came Down
Last Spring I had the privilege of speaking to my MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers, but really just moms of young kids) group. I kept asking God on which topic He wanted me to speak. I kept sensing the topic of God’s love. But I knew I needed to make it personal because for those of us who have grown up in the church or heard about God from an early age, knowing “God is Love” fits into the “old hat” category. Yeah, I know, I know, God is love. He loves me. Got it.
But do we really “got it?” Since my cancer diagnosis four years ago, God has been bringing me to a deeper understanding of His love. What was once head knowledge is now making its way into the deep crevices of my heart. And His love is changing me as a result. Though it will take more than a lifetime to get to the bottom of His unquenchable love, this new heart-understanding has seeped into my life and given me a deeper peace and confidence than I have ever had before.
I was asked to speak again on the same topic coming up in January for another group of ladies at my church and so I am beginning to revisit this theme of God’s love again. You know when you ask God to open your eyes about something and then it’s like every where you turn, you hear a song or read an excerpt about that topic? That’s what He’s been doing for me.
I recently wrote on Facebook that for Advent this year I am reading excerpts from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. I wanted to do something to prepare my mind and heart for Christmas but as a sleep-deprived mom of a one-year-old, I knew I couldn’t bite off anything too lengthy right now. Since Olivia just received this children’s Bible for her birthday and I read a blog post about reading it during the Advent season, I decided that would be my devotional reading for this month. (By the way, it’s not too late if you want to join in. I found the Advent reading schedule here. And if you don’t have this Bible, I do highly recommend it!)
One of the aspects about this Bible that I love is that every Bible story points back to Jesus. After I looked more closely I noticed the subtitle of the Bible reads “Every story whispers His name.” I love reflecting on how each story in the Bible was preparing us for the true Messiah.
Late last week I was reading the chapter entitled “The Present” based off of the story of Abraham and Isaac from Genesis 22. (If you compare when I read that chapter versus when I was supposed to in the Advent reading, I am a little behind, but hey, I am reading nonetheless!) I was struck by how the author weaved in the concept of God’s love in this story and wanted to share an excerpt:
“God knew that his Secret Rescue Plan could only work if Abraham trusted him completely. God had to make sure Abraham would do whatever he asked. So a few years later, God asked Abraham to give him a present.
Abraham liked giving presents to God. He gave God his animals. They were called ‘sacrifices’ and they were a way to say ‘I love you’ to God.
But this time God didn’t want a lamb or a goat, God wanted Abraham to give him something more — more more. He wanted Abraham to give him his son, his only son, the son he loved — Isaac.
Put this boy on the altar and kill him as a sacrifice? How could God want him to do such a terrible thing? Abraham didn’t understand. But he knew that God was his father who loved him. And so Abraham trusted him….
Everything was ready [to sacrifice Isaac]. Abraham took the knife. Tears were filling up his eyes. Pain was filling up his heart. His hand was shaking. He lifted the knife high into the air–
‘STOP!’ God said. ‘Don’t hurt the boy. I want him to live and not die. I know now that you love me because you would have given me your only son.’…
…Suddenly, Abraham saw a ram caught in some brambles — the sacrifice. God had given them what they needed just in time. The ram would die so Isaac didn’t have to. And so Abraham sacrificed the ram, instead of his son.
And as [Abraham and Isaac] sat there on the mountaintop, watching the embers of the fire die in the cool night air, the stars above them sparkling in the velvet sky, God helped Abraham and Isaac understand something. God wanted his people to live and not die. God wanted to rescue his people, not punish them. But they must trust him.
‘One day Someone will be born into your family,” God promised them. ‘And he will bring happiness to the whole world.’
God was getting ready to give the whole world a wonderful present. It would be God’s way to tell his people, ‘I love you.’
Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back. Like Isaac, he would trust his Father and do what his Father asked. He wouldn’t struggle or run away.
Who was he? God’s Son, his only Son–the Son he loved.
The Lamb of God.”
I have known since I was a little girl that “for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16), but I so appreciated the way the author communicated this truth in a different way. And in way that caught my attention and focused me back on the concept of God’s amazing love.
And then a few days ago I sat down to read the new book I just ordered, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp. I totally didn’t realize that a) this was an Advent-geared book, and b) that the theme was about God’s love until, again, I looked at the subtitle.
Okay, Lord, I am listening.
I opened up the second chapter “Life Begins as a Love Story.” And she writes, “This Christmas Story–it begins in the beginning, this love story that’s been coming for you since the beginning” (12).
Yes. I love how she points out that our entire story is a love story. One of drawing us to a God who loved us so much that He sacrificed His only Son for us. Though I may know this story intellectually, I so desire to live this confidence and peace out in my every day life.
I read further (because I am way behind and am trying to catch up!), and in chapter 6, Voskamp quotes a line from her first book, One Thousand Gifts, and says, “‘All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends.’ And His for you never will (50).”
This line pricked my heart and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. You know from my previous posts that fear is a real struggle of mine and one that God and I are continually talking about. Recently I feel like many people in my life are battling cancer and the fear of mine returning has been kicked up a notch. And I’ve also heard a few stories of people burying their children and worry grasps my heart as I fear what could happen to Olivia. The list of fears go on and on. Worries that I won’t be able to have another baby. Worries that we won’t be able to sell our Chicago home. Worries that we won’t find deep community here in Cincinnati.
But if I go back to the line above, “All fear is but the notion that God’s love ends,” I am reminded that there is no reason to fear because God is here in the present and He is in the future if ever any of those worries actually did pan out. (I have written more about that here and here.)
As I have been pondering these worries, God placed an exclamation point on the concept of His love when I read this insight in Chapter 7 (based off of the story of Abraham and Isaac again) of The Greatest Gift:
“Worry is belief gone wrong. Because you don’t believe that God will get it right.
Peace is belief that exhales.
Because you believe that God’s provision is everywhere–like air.
In the thin air of Advent, you may not even know how to say it out loud: ‘I thought it would be easier.’ And your God comes near: I will provide the way. You may not even know who to tell: ‘I thought it would be different.’ And your God draws you close: I will provide grace for the gaps. You may not even know how to find words for it: ‘I thought I would be…more.’ And your God reaches out: I will provide Me.
God gives God. That is the gift God ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need, God gives God. God gives God, and we only need to slow long enough to unwrap the greatest Gift with our time: time in His Word, time in His presence, time at His feet.
…Advent is the time to see the Tree in your thicket and whisper the echoing words of your God: Now I know. Now I know. Since You did not spare Your only Son, how will You not also graciously give us–even me–all things You know I need? (Romans 8:32).
Now I know. Now I know, because You have not withheld from me Your Son, Your only Son. Now I know how You love me.
How He always has a ram in the thicket.
How He always provides–this bleating love calling you home” (60,61).
I don’t write these truths to preach at you; I write these truths to preach them to myself because oh, how I have needed this encouragement. I so appreciate when I can tangibly see God writing a talk in my heart before I give it. And how amazing that both of these books are focusing my eyes on the incredible love God had for us to give us the best present ever: Jesus.
This song popped in my head as I finished writing:
When Love Came Down by Point of Grace
Close your eyes and share the dream
That everyone on Earth believe
A Child was born the stars shown bright
And love came down at Christmas time
And love came down at Christmas time…
Christmas Eve 2 a.m. heavy snow is falling down
And the streets clothed in white
That were sung by candle light.
We’re alive we can breathe but do we
Really care for this world in need?
There’s a choice we must make
Each and every day.
So Merry Chirstmas everyone
And peace throughout the year
The time has come to celebrate
So let your voices fill the air.
Everyone watch and pray that the sun
Will shine a brighter day
Join your hands lift them high for this gift of life.
When love came down at Christmas time
When love came down at Christmas time..
When love came down at Christmas time..
When love came down at Christmas time..