Advent is the season of expectant preparation for the coming of Jesus, God’s only Son, our Lord.
It is marked with candles, and music, and the reading of Scripture. Many families create an advent wreath with 4 candles. Frequently, three of the candles are purple and on is pink. Some will include a fifth candle, the Christ Candle, in the center of the wreath, unlit until Christmas Eve.
The traditional themes of Advent are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. This week we focus on the message of God’s Awesome Love and our response.
The message of LOVE is only understood in light of God’s amazing LOVE for us! His love was made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ, God the Son. He loved us so much, he gave up the comforts of heaven, and willingly poured himself out, becoming fully human; and finally becoming obedient to death, even death on a Cross! We love God (and others), because God FIRST loved us!
This Advent Season, we will share passages of Scripture for you to prayerfully consider. The accompanying devotional thought will direct your meditation and response. Happy 4th week of Advent!
1 John 4:7-8
Love One Another
“Dear friends, let us love one another…” The message begins tenderly enough, “Dear friends…” In the Greek New Testament, it reads, “Beloved…” John uses this word of the Church. He is writing to people he loves, people God loves. These are people he cares about.
Who are your “Beloved…”? My wife is my beloved. We have been married for 43 years now. She knows me and I know her, and I would lay down my life for her (I think she would say the same about me). I love her, no ifs… ands… or buts… about it. My children, their spouses, and their children are my beloved. My family (parent, siblings, etc.), they, too are my beloved. The people, who are New Hope Community Church, are my beloved. The circle is getting bigger..
The call to the “Beloved” is that they would “love each other…” Loving each other is more than giving them a quick hug on Sunday morning. It is more than a cute heart emoticon when sending a text greeting, or attaching kisses on the e-mail you just sent. It is being ready to lay down our lives for them (how do you express that in an emoticon?)..
And, who are these John describes as “each other”? The “each other” is that person sitting at the table with you right now. They are the folks in your small group and the people in the Praise Band and the baristas at the Church coffee bar. The “each other” are the people in our church, even the ones you don’t get along with (who might they be?). The “each other”, then, extends out to other believers in other places. Even those who have different denominational names and live in other countries and speak a diversity of languages.
It was written of the earliest Christians, “Behold how they love one another!“ That should be said of all believers in all ages. It is a shame when we cannot get along with other Christians. This Advent, commit yourself to finding way to express love to the others in your church fellowship.
1 John 4:9-12
God Is Love
I have an idea: in the next few days become a reporter. Go out into your neighborhood, or to the mall, and ask the people you meet to finish this statement: “God is _________.”
I think it would be interesting to hear their responses. Growing up, I would have said (at different times in my life): “…really old”, or “… angry”, or “… critical”, or “… holy”. When I was young, I remember asking my dad how old God was (that was important to me, then). In my teen years, I was pretty sure God was angry all the time and critical of people like me. By the way, I had people tell me God didn’t like boys with long hair. I do have to confess, it made me wonder how they felt about Jesus. All the pictures I had ever seen of him, he had hair longer than mine. Then, I went through a period where I was fairly certain I could never be good enough for God. After all, we were told to be holy as he was holy. I knew, with absolute certainty I was in trouble. My young male mind saw to that!
Then, I learned and was overwhelmed by the story of God’s Amazing Grace, his unconditional love for us, for me! I had begun to understand his love earlier in my life, but it was when I was sitting with my dad, as he lay dying, that I really understood God’s LOVE! Every day for a week I would go into his room and sit with him. I would ask him, “Dad can I read the Bible to you?” And he would answer, each day the same, “Yes, Romans 5!”
So, I would read, words that became familiar to me, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The leading characteristic of God, the definition of “God-ness” is LOVE! John writes of God’s love more than any other writer in Scripture, but the message is ALWAYS there! This Advent say it with me: “God is LOVE!”
1 John 4:19-21
Love Conquers Hate!
How would you define “hate”? I initially answered this question by writing down the things I personally and strongly dislike. I dislike brussels sprouts. I strongly dislike poisonous snakes. I am not at all fond of oysters and shrimp. I was not satisfied with my response, so I looked the word up in a dictionary. It said: “to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest…” (Dictionary.com). I guess I was not too far off the mark.
What is wrong with feeling that way toward other people? Why should we not hate someone who has wronged us? Why should we not hate someone who presents a threat toward us? Is that not the “normal” way for us to respond?
Jesus “… was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:10-11). In fact, the world and those who were his own rejected him, crucifying him as though he was a common criminal. He came to our world, knowing the Cross loomed before him. He came to this world to reveal, to make known God’s love for the very people who did not recognize him or receive him.
Hate could have been his response. Those who put him to death deserved his anger and his hatred. In fact, many former generations of Christians hated the Jewish people, calling them “God-killers”, considering them worthy of wrath and destruction. It was one of the reasons the Nazis used to justify the extermination of millions of Jews. But Jesus did not hate those who put him to death. He prayed “Father, forgive them!” (Luke 23:34)
This Advent season, we are invited to love the unlovely, to forgive those who wrong us. To love as we are loved.
God’s Amazing Love!
“Amazing love, how can it be?
That you, my King would die for me?
Amazing love, I know it’s true
It’s my joy to honor You
In all I do, I honor You.
I’m forgiven because You were forsaken
I’m accepted, You were condemned
I am alive and well, Your spirit is within me!
Because You died and rose again!”
(Chris Tomlin, Amazing Love)
uring this Advent season, we have been thinking about LOVE, God’s Love and our response. Today, I want us to focus in on God’s Amazing Love!
The passage reads “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.”
He loves us! We are “the world” for whom Jesus came and died. We are the ones God loves. If you are reading these words, know this, GOD LOVES YOU! He does not hate you! The Almighty God cares deeply for your eternal destiny. He is NOT seeking your destruction, he is seeking to grant you LIFE. The life he gives is not meager or small it is abundant.
The second half of the passage affirms this, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him!”
Be affirmed! Confess God’s LOVE for you, His Amazing LOVE! And live in the power of God’s great LOVE!
Week 4—Friday—Christmas Day
Love Made Manifest
I was slow to tell Amarie “I LOVE YOU!” I guess I was afraid of the words and their eventual outcome. In fact, it was not until just before I asked her to marry me that I told her I loved her. I think I did not want my words to be “cheap”. I wanted to really mean what I said, when I said it.
So, when I told her I loved her, they were words that were going to last through thick and thin, joy and sorrow, trial and error. Soon after I spoke those words, I asked her to marry me! I have told her many times since, “I love you!” and, the words mean so much more today than they did, then.
When God spoke of loving his creation, he followed the words up with a vivid demonstration of his love. We celebrate that visual demonstration of God’s LOVE, today! Christmas is the DAY, God’s Love was made manifest!
On this day, let us consider two things. First, how can we show God, our love for him? He tells us, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Loving God means we will do what he commands us to do! Second, he tells us, “My command is this, Love each other, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
On this day, make your love for God visible by obeying his commands. Do what he tells you to do: Worship him, devote yourself fully to him. Let nothing stand between God and you! Then, serve others joyfully, love them by giving of yourself to them!
Have a Merry Christmas… Revel in the Love of God… Don’t be afraid to serve others!
Live a Life of Love
Here is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of this passage, it’s beautiful and appropriate for the closing message!
“In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” (The Message)
The good news of Advent comes to the climactic moment of God’s love being revealed with the birth of his Son and our Savior, Jesus. The good news of Advent points us to the Cross, where God’s love is dramatically on display. The good news of Advent reminds us that God is not finished with us! He is coming again, to finish his work of LOVE.
So, we celebrate the Hope we share. We share the Peace we have received. We give voice to the Joy we experience. We live in the Love made real.
The shepherds left the stable and told everyone what they had witnessed. Let us go and tell the world, everyone we meet, what we have received this Advent. Our God has come and He is coming again!