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A priest saw a farm worker praying next to a road. He then said: ‘You must love God very much’, whereupon the farm worker replied with a smile: ‘Oh yes, He is very fond of me!’ When Christians are asked: Does God love you? Is He very fond of you?, the reply is often something like ‘I still sin a lot’ or ‘I don’t always live properly’. The question is then actually understood as: ‘Do you deserve God’s love? Do you live in such a way that God will love you?’
When someone has done a good deed that person is usually compensated. It may be in the form of money, or something bought, nicely wrapped and given to that person. It may look like a gift, but it remains compensation for what had been done. A true gift has nothing to do with any performance by the recipient. It is given because you love the person, and not to compensate the person; nor to expect something in return for it. God had given us a true Gift. He had given Himself in his Son, Jesus Christ: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus died in our place on the cross for our sins so that we can be friends of God. He broke down the barrier between us and God. This gift is not earned. But God has shown us how much He loves us – it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! (Rom. 5:8).
The gift from God is for everyone. God merely requires that we must accept the gift, believe that God loves us and that Jesus had died also for our sins. Both children and elderly people receive this gift. Educated people believe that Jesus had saved them, and so do people who can’t read or write. Many rich people are dedicated Christians and so also many poor people. All over the world people believe in the redemption that God had brought about for us. People from different nations and races accept this gift. Nepal and China are the countries with the highest Christian growth rate in the world. In Nepal it is 10.93% and in China 10.86% per year.
It is clear, from the above-mentioned conversation with the farm worker, that he knows that God loves him dearly. That led him to love God. Put differently: he didn’t think that God likes him because he loves God, or because he earned God’s love. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
If we realise that God loves us, and we accept his gift, something happens inside of us. The love of God in Jesus sets us in motion. Paul writes: We are ruled by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5:14). That happened to the farm worker. He was filled with the love and joy of the Lord. If we have accepted God’s gift we are changed to such an extent that Jesus can say to each one of us: ‘You are the salt of the earth’ (Matt. 5:13); ‘You are the light of the world’ (Matt. 5:14).
Within a few weeks it will be Christmas. Jesus is our great Christmas Gift: He saved us and called us to be his own people, not because of what we have done, but because of his own purpose and grace. He gave us this grace by means of Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Tim. 1:9).

Thank you Jesus that You have loved us first. You are our great Gift. Amen.

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Gert Berning