We love, because He first loved us. – 1 John 4:19 (AMP)
I had a doozy of a time finding mistletoe this year. Maybe it was because I was looking for it Sunday morning before church so I could use it in my sermon, “The Symbols of Christmas.”
That and I still needed to get a sprig to hang on the ceiling beam between the kitchen and the dining room, which has become a Christmas tradition in our home. Truth be told, rarely does anyone smooch under it. But I still like to hang it up.
How did mistletoe, a symbol of love (which we celebrate on Valentine’s Day), become associated with Christmas?
Legends about this evergreen plant go back to the ancient Druids of Britain, who believed mistletoe had special healing powers and used it in their winter solstice ceremonies. Actually, “mistletoe,” in the Celtic language, means “all heal.”
When Christianity took root, pagan practices and beliefs were condemned, and mistletoe was all but forgotten until the 1800s, when Victorian England revived the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe as a sign of love, romance, and good luck.
When I researched mistletoe for information for my sermon, I discovered it’s actually an aerial parasite, having no roots of its own. To survive, mistletoe attaches itself to a tree, from which it gets its nourishment.
Love, whether romantic love or brotherly love, doesn’t exist on its own. All love originates from, and gets its nourishment from, agape love—divine love. Agape is the highest form of love, transcending all other types of love. It is the love of God for man—unconditional, unlimited, sacrificial, selfless, giving of itself regardless of circumstances. God’s love is the tree that sustains us—physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally.
Interestingly, agape, pronounced a-GÁP-ē, can also be pronounced əˈɡāp, which refers to the mouth when it is “wide open with wonder and surprise.”
Such is the love God has for us—it should leave us with mouths wide open in wonder and surprise that the God who created the universe—the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—loved each of us so much He left His throne in heaven to take on human flesh, live a sinless life and give Himself up as the perfect sacrifice to pay the price for our sins so we could live in heaven with Him forever (see John 3:16).
Such is the love of God.
God’s is the love from which all other love springs and is sustained. We love, you see, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And like the mistletoe cannot survive without being attached to the tree, so our love cannot sustain itself. God’s love is the tree that feeds us, gives us life, and enables us to love.
And just like the meaning of mistletoe is “all heal,” God’s love is the healing salve we need for all our wounds—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.
Wow. All that about a sprig of evergreen we hang up in our homes at Christmastime and for the most part forget about.
A sprig of evergreen that reminds us of the love God has for each one of us—nourishing, life-giving, and eternal.
As we light the third Advent candle—the candle of Love—may we be reminded, O God, of the love that sent Your Son from heaven to earth so that we may have heaven forever. Amen.
Read and meditate on 1 John 4:7–21