A Devotion: Christmas Is Over, Now What?

Christmas Is Over, Now What? Returning to “Our First Love”
by Mark B. Tankersley

So far this has been a warm Christmas for me! But I know for some people, this has not been their best Christmas, because they are longing for loved ones, and for company. May God bring comfort and friends and prayers to them through us. But soon, Christmas will fade away, for all of us. What next? That is what I am looking toward now. Let us look together. Let us look at this passage in Revelation as a call from God whose love is both exhilarating and intimidating and gives us much to look forward to:

“I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:3,4

This is a lover’s call. It is an intense longing for the former relationship and shared affection. It is a lover’s cry. To those who know the Lord, don’t we know that we should have, and sometimes really do have, a longing for God? This Scripture speaks to that. But today I have realized in a new way, this Scripture speaks to something else. I see that this Scripture as the transparent, intimate revelation of the One who is missing His love, the church.

This is true: we do much for the Lord, and we do much for the church, and He is proud of this, and He is proud of us! He really is! We endure, and bear up for His name, for His glory, even if we are no longer quite as impassioned about it as we used to be. We work hard, looking for new ways to serve. We get tired sometimes, but never totally weary. His Spirit has held us together, holds us up, keeps us in the faith. God is proud of us, and He helps us. He loves to help us.

But He longs for something more with us. He wants our love and affection for Him. He wants a shared love. He who gives us life, wants to share life … with us! We have known this before. We have experienced it. At times we have felt strongly for the Lord. Affectionately we have sought Him, almost as if we were in love. We used to sing to Him, like we meant it, loudly, lovingly, and shamelessly. We loved Him so much we used to tell other people about Him. Sweetly and genuinely, we yearned for others to know Him.

We remember how we loved to read His word because often it was as if He were writing the words down for the first time. It was as if the ink was still wet on the scroll, as we heard Him tell us of His love through those ancient words. We saw how the Bible was God’s autobiography and its central focus is God’s relentless love for His people, for us, for His Church, for me.

Can we see that this Revelation 2 passage is the longing cry of the lover of our souls, reminding me and us that we used to enjoy uninterrupted joy and satisfaction WITH Him? But over time, in the pursuit of whatever else we have pursued, we have drifted from our first love. I see in a new way I think, that the tone of this Revelation is not condemnatory. It is a yearning. That caught me by surprise, and catches me off guard. How have I missed this?

Of course, Jesus is proud of us. He has seen our work for Him, tirelessly at times. But He misses something, longs for something: what He misses is our love for Him! Our shared love with Him! “First love” means primary love, the ultimate love of our life. He has it for us; He wants us to have it for Him.

I recently heard Eric Clapton’s song “Old Love,” a mesmerizing bluesy song that is, for me at least, a very moving song. He pleads, speaking to himself, speaking to His heart, speaking to a former love:

“And it makes me so angry
To know that the flame still burns.
Why can’t I get over?
When will I ever learn?

Old love, leave me alone
Old love, go on home.

I can see your face, but I know it’s not real.
It’s just an illusion caused by how I used to feel.”

Powerful! We’ve probably all been there before with a former “flame.” Similarly, we have all been there with our Savior. There are times we just want to get over Him, and pursue something or someone else: the world, the flesh, and maybe just ourselves without God anywhere around. And we will have some moments when we “remember how we used to feel” about Him, but the affection for other things has overtaken us. And in moments of conscience and conviction, we feel the heartbeat of the Holy Spirit within … deep down inside of us, and we fight Him off and we say to ourselves, to Him, to our Savior:

Old love, leave me alone
Old love, go on home.

And here we are: working for God, but perhaps no longer longing for God. We have left our first love.

But He keeps calling us back. Why? Why does He keep calling, keep trying, keep pursuing? Again, I wonder, “why?” And then it comes to me … and this is the unending surprise of the Gospel (Let it call you and me back to our first love, our premier love, our highest love): Our Lord’s love for us, for me, is never an “old love.” We are always in His heart, and unlike our love for Him, His love for us never fades. His love is never reduced to a low burning ember where He has to stir it up into a fire again. His love for those for whom He gave everything burns brightly, warmly, unendingly.

If anyone had a right to sing the Clapton refrain it is God. We the church are so temperamental, fickle, inconsistent, and lovers so easily seduced by the world that it would not surprise me to hear Him sing:

Old love, leave me alone
Old love, go on home.
You’re just an illusion,
Caused by how I used to feel.

But God’s love is never a “I used to feel this way” kind of love. His love still burns for His beloved. This is for me the new surprise of Revelation 2. God wants us to “remember His first love” because He has never lost His love for us. That knowledge should begin to stir something in us, and it has! It is knowing this love is real and has never been superficial, that it makes me want to at least consider beginning the journey back to Him. God’s love for us is always present, always kindled, always here, always always (if I can say it that way). Something about this, made my heart leap again. It leads us, me, to “remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Revelation 2:5. Everything looks different when you read Revelation as God’s love story for His church, His people! A longing for us that sometimes has to take a somewhat blunt approach to awaken us.

May the Lord stir us to our first love, the Lord God who made you and gave Himself for you. He misses us! Maybe you are starting to miss Him too. You know, God never has to “remember His first love.” . God’s love for us, never gets old to Him. “We are always on His mind” to borrow the refrain from another song.

Let us observe and ponder that God has written a love ballad. It took Him sixty-six books to tell us of His great love. As it turns out those books are just the prelude. The rest of the story will require eternity: “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7)!
Until that day, let us read His epic ballad, and let us look for those love songs for His people, for you, for me, and let it stir us to “remember our first love”:

“The Lord God is in your midst.
A mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Mark Tankersley