As I’ve mentioned before, my wife Sabra enjoys watching movies on the Hallmark Channel. Especially the love stories.
The Hallmark Channel has become well known for their Christmas movies it airs every year. The first movie this year, “Marry Me at Christmas,” aired on October 28th. The last one will air on December 31st. In-between those two dates, Christmas movies are being shown non-stop. That’s right…24/7! And all of them are love stories of one kind or another. Some are silly. Some are sappy. Some are sweet. And some are even inspirational.
But the real love story of Christmas is found in a parable Jesus told. It is found in Mark 12:1-12:
“Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. 6 He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.” 7 But the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.’”
I doubt you’ll ever find this love story on the Hallmark Channel. But it’s the greatest love story of all. For in this parable, Jesus tells the story of how much God loves us.
It began when He created mankind in a perfect vineyard–a perfect world. Part of that perfect creation was man, woman, and marriage (see Genesis 2:18-25).
But man sinned against God, and His perfect plan for us was marred. When sin entered the world, so did death and separation from God. Eternal separation from Him in hell is now what we deserve.
We are told in Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”
We also read in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The consequence of this truth is found in Romans 6:23a: “For the wages of sin is death.”
God is omniscient. He knows everything. He knew before He created us that we would sin. So He already had a perfect plan in place to redeem us. He had already prepared a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and to be made right with Him again. A way for us to be able to spend eternity with Him in the paradise He intended, instead of separated from Him in hell for all eternity.
His perfect redemption plan begins with us realizing we have all sinned and that sin separates us from God.
God sent men and women to show and teach us how He intends for us to live. Leaders and prophets such as Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, to name a few. (You can read a list of some of these and more in Hebrews 11.) The servants in Jesus’ parable represent these leaders and prophets God sent to us.
These men and women—under the influence of the Holy Spirit—brought God’s truth to us about how we are to live. And this includes how we are to live as husbands and wives.
But the parable also shows that none of us follow all of God’s commands perfectly and often do not listen to God’s truth because we are sinners. So finally the land owner—God Himself—demonstrates how much He loves us by sending His Son to offer us forgiveness and salvation.
God knew how we (mankind) would respond to His plan. He knew we would reject His Son. He knew we would kill Him. But as we did, Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins.
We read this synopsis of God’s plan in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
This is the real love story of Christmas. This is true love.
We read more about God’s amazing love in 1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
God loved us and reached out to us. And He continues to do so. Even though we ignore Him, revile Him, and use His name as a curse word, He keeps loving us. That is the genuine agape love of God.
And in order to have a blessed and loving marriage—the marriage He designed and desires for us—this is the love we must have for each other.
He tells us this in 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.” Jesus said in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
After God has loved us so much, how can we not love Him? How can we not love each other?
When your husband, wife, children, or someone else tries your patience this Christmas, ask God to help you be Christ-like and respond with the agape love God has for you.
Let’s be a part of the true love story of Christmas this year—in our hearts, in our lives, and in our marriage.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God taught you through it. Discuss how you can apply what He taught you to your marriage.
♦ To be able to love in the way we have discussed in this teaching, you must accept God’s gift of salvation. The true gift of Christmas is found in the second part of Romans 6:23: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” To learn more about how to do this, go here: Meet Jesus.
♦ Discuss ways you can show God’s love to others this Christmas and beyond.
♦ Close your time together in prayer by thanking God for His gift of His Son Jesus Christ and the salvation He brings. Ask Him to help you share this gift with others.
Sabra and I will be taking a break for the next two weeks to spend time with family and friends. And hopefully…prayerfully…extend God’s love to each other and all those whose paths we cross.
The two songs linked below complement this week’s teaching. The first is an easy to remember chorus that we have sung in many churches together over the years. And the second is a newer song written by and sung by two of our favorite Christian artists.
“Oh, How He Loves You and Me” – Kurt Kaiser
“When Love Came Down to Earth” by Stuart Townend; Performed by Kristyne Getty, Margaret Becker, and Joanne Hogg
May you have a joyous Christmas season!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash, (CC0), cropped/text added.