Wonders of His Love
by the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, December 24, 1998
33:10-16 A Righteous Branch
what the Lord says: "You say about this place, 'It is a desolate
waste, without people or animals.' Yet in the towns of Judah and the
streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor
animals, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the
voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank
offerings to the house of the Lord, saying, 'Give thanks to the Lord of
hosts, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever.' For I will restore
the fortunes of the land as they were before," says the Lord.
what the Lord Almighty says: "In this place, desolate and without
people or animals--in all its towns there will again be pastures for
shepherds to rest their flocks. In the towns of the hill country, of the
western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the
villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again
pass under the hand of the one who counts them," says the Lord.
days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will fulfil the
gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.
In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from
David's line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days
Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by
which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness."
1:26-38 Gabriel Foretells Jesus' Birth
sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to
a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of
David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said,
"Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this
might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you
have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son,
and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be
called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of
his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; his
kingdom will never end."
will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the
Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called
the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in
her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For
nothing is impossible with God."
the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have
said." Then the angel left her.
The Birth of Jesus
days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the
entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while
Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to
also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem
the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He
went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and
was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby
to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in
cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in
were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their
flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of
the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to
them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will
be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born
to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a
baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God
and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to
people on whom his favor rests."
angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one
another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about."
hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the
manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had
been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what
the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and
pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and
praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just
as they had been told.
thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good; his love endures
forever. (Jeremiah 33:11)
wonderful to have all of you here this evening. This is my favorite
service of the year--and not only because it is our biggest service
of the year! That helps; but the reason it is the biggest is that
in this service we celebrate the biggest event in our world's history: the
birth of our Lord Jesus.
that each Advent season, one or two things especially strike me as I think
about the Lord's birth among us. This year, what strikes me most strongly
is that God chose to come down and be born among us.
of course!" you say, "That's what Christmas is all about!"
But let's think about it for a minute. God is an infinite, all-knowing,
all-powerful being who exists outside of time and space, in an eternal
present that is pure love.
of being is far beyond our limited human minds, so let's put it in terms
we can understand. Was there someone on your Christmas shopping list who
was practically impossible to get a present for because he or she
"already has everything"? Well, God is the ultimate person who
already has everything! God is pure love, pure wisdom, pure creativity,
pure joy . . . . The list could go on and on. Suffice
it to say that if it's good, God already has it--because everything good comes
Why in the
world would the God who has everything have the slightest interest in
coming down into this world of ours where there is so much selfishness and
greed? Where we do so many damaging and painful things to one another?
Even today, in this "enlightened age," we humans continue to
wage war on each other, continue to engage in lying and stealing,
corruption and bribery. And we as individuals continue to say and do
things that hurt each other. Or, perhaps even more often, we simply don't
put out our best effort to do for others what we would like them to do for
us. We are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world. What could there
possibly be here to motivate the God of the universe to come down from a
state of pure bliss and enter this world of light mingled with darkness?
answer I can come up with has to do with the wonders of God's love. God
may not need anything from this world or from us. But there is
something God wants to offer to us--to give to us if we will accept
it. That something is God's love.
Swedenborg wrote, "Love is wanting to give what we have to someone
else, and feeling the other person's joy as joy in ourselves" (Divine
Love and Wisdom #47). This is the kind of love God feels for each one
of us. God has and is everything that is good, and God wants to
give it all to us. God wants to give us love and understanding, joy and
peace. And God is willing to do whatever it takes to give these gifts to
God did not
choose to come to earth and be born as the baby Jesus in order to get
something for himself. No, God chose to be born and live among us in order
to give to us the gift of his divine presence among us. God chose to join
us and live among us to show us how we, too, can feel something of the joy
that God has at the core of his being. God gave of himself 100%, even to
the point of being willing to die for us, to show us what love and joy are
though God is the ultimate "person who has everything," there
actually is something we can give to God in return. Love is not only
giving what is ours to others, but also feeling the other person's joy as
joy in ourselves. When we accept the love and the pure joy of living that
God offers to us, we complete the circle of love. Then, the joy that we
feel in ourselves makes God's love and joy complete. Love can never be
real unless it is given away, and God has chosen to give his love to us.
What remains is for us to accept it.
How do we
accept God's love? If love is giving what is our own to others, then we
accept God's love by showing the same love to all the people that we come
in contact with each day. We can return God's love by loving the other
beings God has created to be with us. Every time we bring joy to another
person, we bring joy to God. God loves each one of the beings he has
created, and feels their joy very intensely in his own soul.
we decide to make that extra effort to show kindness and understanding to
another person, we are multiplying the wonders of God's love. Amen.
To Christmas Topic Index