Sunday, December 24, 2023, is not only Christmas Eve, but also it is the Fourth and Last Sunday of Advent (this year the last Sunday of Advent falls on Christmas Eve).
In our Lutheran tradition, the candle for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is purple or blue, and it symbolizes “love.” Other traditions call it the “Angel” candle; we consider it the “love” candle, and it plays a very important part
in our Advent/Christmas worship.
I was a teacher of English Literature before I served as a pastor, so my first discovery of the Christmas hymn, “Love Came Down at Christmas” was as a poem written by the famous English poet, Christina G.Rossetti, in 1885. The poem was set to music by many composers, and also sung to an Old Irish melody. Not being included in any of our Lutheran hymnals, I never used it in worship.
However, the words to me are very beautiful and very meaningful and very appropriate for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (as well as for Christmas Eve).
Here are the words Rossetti wrote:
Love came down at Christmas,
Love, all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine,
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and Love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
Nor only do many Christian hymns express the fact that God loves us, that we are to love God and one another, but also that God is love.
Likewise, Holy Scripture, on which hymns should be based, is filled with such ideas about love, too.
1 John 4:8 says, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
1 John 4:16 says, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us, God is love, and he who abides in love, love abides in God, and God in him.”
1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him because He first loved us.”
Those texts lead up to this one: John 13:34, “A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another.” There are numerous more texts expressing God’s doctrine of love.
Many of you will perhaps celebrate Sunday as Christmas Eve, rather than as the Fourth Sunday of Advent, or maybe you will celebrate both. Regardless of which Festival you celebrate, you are celebrating the joy of God’s love for humankind. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,”
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor, and author of three books, It Must Be the Noodles, Open Prairies, and Tanka Schoen