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Grace Church service: In this is love…

By Pastor Dale Marks
Special to The PREVIEW

“We love because He first loved us.” —  1 John 4:19.

What is the most extravagant moment of love you’ve experienced?

Perhaps it was your wedding day or the birth of your children? Maybe it was an unexpected gift or act of grace?

Whatever it was, do you remember the way it made you feel? Can you recall the sights, smells and sounds? Amazing, isn’t it, the impact this has on us?

For some, though, it has been a rollercoaster-like year, with challenges and difficulties. And the spirit of Christmas — and extravagant love — feels more like a distant memory than a warm embrace.

But, on a cold night long ago, a young woman ushered into this world the most extravagant gift ever given. It was a gift wrapped not in ribbons and bows, but wrapped in simple cloth and laid in a feeding trough. Hardly the kind of reception one would imagine for something so precious.

Even the very people present that night seemed more like a second-thought than the privileged attenders at the birth of a King. A carpenter served as the midwife. Shepherds proclaimed the birth.  And the animals looked on as the baby’s cries filled the night. The most extravagant love appeared to the very least of these.

Read through the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter one and you’ll find liars, murderers, adulterers; good folk and bad. The Apostle Paul tells us that, “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:28). In a way that can only be described as astounding, God says that He’ll use people — fallible, mistake laden people — to accomplish His purposes. That includes even you, and me.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book “God Is In the Manger” writes: “And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly… God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”

God came in to our neighborhood to dwell among us. To live as we live. Who better understands our hurts, our joy, and our pain? Who better can identify with where we are right now? And who better can comfort us when our world seems to make no sense? Only the Perfect One — the One whose tiny hand clasped Mary’s finger the first night, and would then bear the nails that last night?

This is what extravagant love does. It bears all things, believes all things, endures all things, hopes all things — love like this never fails.

A Christmas kind of love. The type of love we are commanded to give to others.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” — John 13:34. A love worth giving to others. A love given to you. A love born of hope. A hope of things to come.

May the joy, hope and love of Christmas fill this season and throughout the year.

You are invited to join Grace Church on Christmas Eve for a time of celebration at 4 or 5:30 p.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center. All are welcome.

This story was posted on December 20, 2012.