1 John 3:16 "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters."
When we said goodbye to our loved one, most of us at some point asked why. Why did my spouse, or sibling, or baby die? We ask it on two levels - physical and spiritual. We want to know what went wrong physically. And we want to know why God didn't stop it. Fully fleshed out, many of us want to know, "If God loves me, why would He let me hurt like this?" The question itself reveals a fundamental belief about love - that the truest expression of love is the protection of the object of that love. When we find ourselves hurting, we begin to distrust the one who supposedly loves us.
What if that belief is wrong? What if the truest expression of love is not in what one is protected from, but in what one sacrifices for the beloved? Over and over again in Scripture, we are told that while God's love is shown in many ways through His care and provision for us, the truest expression of His love is found in one place - the cross of Calvary, where the Son of God laid down His life for us. An act of love that began with the Incarnation, God taking on human flesh - the story of Christmas.
In lighting the fourth candle of Advent, we recognize by faith that the greatest expression of God's love is not in how well he protects us from earthly harm, but in how far He went to bring us back to Himself - sending Jesus from the splendor of Heaven to the squalor of Earth, to be born into poverty, raised in obscurity, to die in humility, and to be resurrected in glory. We choose by faith to believe that God does love us, regardless of how our circumstances make us feel.
God, fill our hearts with your love this Advent. We are hurting, and you could have kept us from it, and so it is easy to doubt your love. But help us lift our eyes from our painful circumstances long enough to set them on the cross. Assure us of your love so that, in that knowledge, we can face our circumstances with renewed strength and faith in You, especially in this Christmas season. Amen.