Over twenty years ago, on a warm, clear afternoon in early May, I stood beside the man who would (in a matter of mere minutes) be my husband and sang a Christmas hymn. I was dressed in white and carrying an enormous bouquet of lavender and cream-colored delphiniums, and lavish sunlight poured through the stained-glass windows of my childhood church. It probably seemed strange to our guests that on our sunny, spring wedding day we chose to sing the first, fourth, and fifth stanzas of a lesser-known Christmas song: “Of the Father’s Love Begotten.” Usually reserved for quiet Advent nights, candlelight, and perhaps a softly backlit nativity scene, we had plucked my favorite song from the Christmas section of the gray psalter and compelled our friends and family to sing along. It was out of season, out of context, and perfectly appointed for such an occasion.
I’ll admit that at twenty-one years old (a new college graduate and soon-to-be new wife), the theological underpinnings of the original text as well as the cultural and contextual implications were wholly lost on me. I didn’t choose the song because it conveyed some rich doctrinal truth or because it inspired a holy reverence. Instead, I sang those verses on my wedding day as a fervent prayer. I had no idea what the future would hold, and the blank slate of days, months, and years ahead seemed too fuzzy and indistinct to bear.
I knew that though this day held joy, my husband and I would face many more days that broke our hearts, challenged our faith, and tested our love.It was a terrifying leap to make, to link arms and jump into the future together.
But, in that season I was also in the process of awakening to a love that I couldn’t explain or fully comprehend, a love that had been reflected through the family of my youth and that was now exploding in a kaleidoscope of new connections and attachments—the promise of a future and someday, Lord willing, children of my own. I was on the threshold of adulthood and just beginning to grasp the height and depth of a love that had sustained me from birth and brought me to this momentous day, and in a simple, unapologetically sentimental way I wanted to name it. To try, for even a moment, to hold it in the palm of my hand as I stood on the cusp of the rest of my life. It was an invocation, a declaration, an acknowledgment of the Father’s deep, deep love and my nascent understanding of it.
Of the Father’s love begotten
Ere the worlds began to be,
He the Alpha and Omega—
He the source, the ending he,
Of all things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see
Evermore and evermore.
Even now, I can hardly read the first stanza without choking up. It’s too much. This love established the cosmos and yet pulses with the tender heartbeat of every living thing. This love left fingerprints in the dips and whorls of far-flung mountains and deserts, and then sent his beloved to sleep in a manger and nurse at the breast of a broken girl he had created. This extravagant love levels me. It’s nonsensical and inexplicable. In the words of a more recent song, it’s reckless.
I needed that reckless, beginning and end, all-encompassing love begotten on my wedding day. I need it still and more than ever, because as the years peel off the calendar and life continues to come hard and fast, I can recognize the ethereal, almost mystical love that carried me so far has become something much more elemental. Of course, the transformation is in my understanding (not in God or in the nature of his love), but I’m awed by it all the same. This love is the powerful, wild tide of a storm that could raze the world and reshape the heavens. The kind of love that can defy and redeem all the evil a fallen creation can conjure, and inspire the abject adoration of angels, powers, dominions, everything.
Let the heights of heaven adore him;
Angel hosts, his praises sing:
Powers, dominions, bow before him
And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert ring
Evermore and evermore.
This triumphant love stirs my soul. And it scares me a little. I’ve spent much of my life seeking friendship at the feet of my Abba Father, but this chorus of every voice in every universe is a song for Elohim (Creator) and Adonai (Master).
It’s a love that transcends time and space, so fierce it sends a holy chill right down my spine.This love leaves me facedown and trembling. It’s a love that could leave me cold with shame at how I—how all of us—have scorned it and twisted it. There is simply no doubt that we are ugly, broken people.
We all know the sting of betrayal, the heartache of irreparably fractured relationships. We know cancer and sickness and financial crisis and doubt and fear. Wars rage and families fall apart and people we are sure we cannot live without die. We know that the Christmas story—as beautiful and shocking and revolutionary as it is—doesn’t always alleviate our suffering and make us believe that all is well and all will be well. Maybe most of all (the deepest secret nobody knows, the root of the root), we know that we are unlovable. Unloved. Our dirty lies and dark sins and evil urges are the spawn of our headlong fall—the antithesis of Jesus, God’s love begotten. So we struggle to truly believe that God so loved the world. How could he? And, dear God, how could you possibly love me?
But he does.
Christ to you with God the Father
And the Spirit there shall be
Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving
And the shout of jubilee
Honor, glory, and dominion
And eternal victory
Evermore and evermore.
“Of the Father’s Love Begotten” ends with a shout and a whisper and a promise. First the undeniable joy of hymns and chants and high thanksgiving, a fellowship of worship that invites us all into this moment—no, this eternity—of jubilee. It’s a no holds barred, throw the doors wide, raucous celebration of the Father’s love perfected in the sacrifice of his son and fulfilled in the sanctification of his bride.
We don’t deserve it and we certainly didn’t earn it, but here we are—hurt and bruised and scarred and wicked—not just invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb, but dressed in white as if we have never been anything but perfectly beloved and pure. This victory? It’s ours. Paid for and delivered by Love Himself.
I’m overwhelmed by the totality of such a love, and convinced that sometimes the heaviness I feel must be the weight of God’s love pressing on me, breaking down my walls, splintering my pride, crushing those places where I’ve let shame crust over my heart and make me believe that I am not lovable, I am not loved. He whispers: “Yes you. Even you. Especially you.”
The promise our Alpha and Omega leaves us with is simple and etched all across the pages of scripture. I could quote verses in the Old Testament and the New, from the first chapters of Genesis until the final sentence of Revelation (Come, Lord Jesus!). It’s a covenant from the One who Was and Is and Is to Come, and the very heart of this extraordinary story He’s telling:
My love never ends.
What can we do but sing it? Over and over and over again, our voices lush with the thrill of joy or little more than a brokenhearted groan. Wherever we are, however laid low, the consummate lover of our souls, ere the worlds began to be, draws near. Oh, how he loves us.
Evermore and evermore.