It’s been forty-seven years since one of the biggest weddings in television history. The moment? It was the moment former The Mary Tyler Moore Show character Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper) married Joe Gerard. In the iconic scene, the minister announces that Rhoda and Joe have chosen to write their own wedding ceremony and marriage vows. In a quick punchline, Rhoda’s mom whispers to her husband, “What’s wrong with the one God wrote?” - cue laugh track. The ceremony concludes with the minister stating, “Do you promise to stay together, to grow together, and to trust each other as long as you both shall love?”
As long as you both shall “love.” This seemingly small change carries a massive impact. Marriage and the vows taken before God, for as long as you both shall live, are now reduced to feelings, emotions, a commitment that will last only as long as we both shall feel like it. The birth of Emmanuel, God with us, is the perfect expression of true, biblical love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (I John 4:7-12)
In this fourth week of Advent, we emphasize the theme of love. God's unconditional and eternal love. God's perfect love that propelled The Son - The King of Kings and Lord of Lords - to humble Himself and come down to earth as a baby so that he may save his beloved sons and daughters.
Unlike Rhoda’s wedding vows, God's love is unconditional; made manifest by sending His Son into the world so that sinful man might be restored to a right relationship with Him. John states, “this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love is not dependent on feelings, emotions, or our behaviors or actions that merit his salvation. He loves. And this love was extended to us before we even loved or acknowledged him. And God's action (sending Christ the Son, the Light of the world - John 1:1) becomes the mandate for those who believe in the Son.
In love we are adopted as sons and daughters into the everlasting family of God. God’s love is our assurance and confidence in judgment. God’s love banishes self-condemnation. Christ has become the propitiation - the appeasement before God - for our sins. We stand confidently before our Heavenly Father, welcomed into full and eternal life through Jesus Christ.
This Christmas season we celebrate God’s perfect, unconditional love which was prominently displayed in a manger over 2000 years ago in the birth of the Messiah.