advent 2017

Thursday: Study Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

 
— 1 John 4:7-16


Write this passage down. Single out a few of the repeated words and really re-read them in the context of each sentence. 

Jesus came to live in our world, that we might live in his. Simply thinking about “how great light is” does nothing for you if you are surrounded by darkness. Like light, love has a source, and that source is God himself. It is easy in the busyness of our daily lives and holiday expectations to try and train ourselves to “love better”, but we can’t. The need for love in the world is so great, that it can drain the life out of us if we let it. And the answer to the depletion is not just self care or pacing ourselves. It is to reconnect with the source. God has enough love for the massive void in this world, and he can fill that need through us when we abide in him. 

This mystery of abiding is one worth investigating. 

Ask yourself:

Do I know what it means to abide in God? 

What situations always leave me drained and irritable? Why? Have I been seeking the Spirit to guide me and empower me in those situations?

In what relationships do I feel unloved? What habits of prayer do I need to implement to connect with God and be secure by his great love for me?
 

Wednesday: Observe Love

Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.
— Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom was a Christian who, along with her family, helped rescue and harbor hundreds of Jews during WWII. Eventually being betrayed and reported to the Nazis, she was imprisoned in Ravensbruck concentration camp. Losing her father and sister, she survived narrowly, going on to write The Hiding Place about her experience.

In the quote above, written after her experiences, she describes love. Contemplate her statements. How has that been true in your life? Have you ever been blocked from love? Have you ever killed love in an attempt to quit hurting? 

Reflect on this Advent season and your preparation for Christmas day:

How would asking God to open up another route for love to travel change your Christmas season? 

Do you think that God can turn that darkness into light?  

Reflect on your relationship with The Light:

How has He continuously loved you through different “routes” when you pushed his love away through sin and self righteousness? 

How has he redeemed those dark places in your life through his inventive love? 
 

Tuesday: Pray for Love

Lord our Light, 

We proclaim your glory. We bask in your kindness and truth. It is because of your great love that we celebrate this season. You, our King, came down as a baby so that we might have true life. It is your tender mercies that we proclaim this season. It is your sacrifice that sees us through this season and every season. 

Help us, our Light, to lay down our hatred and get rid of our lists. Help us to rid our lives of expectations, exchanging them for you. May we ever sing and ever proclaim your great love. May we never forget the heights and the depth of your love and may we live surrounded by your light. 

May your love be manifest in all that we do. To you be all honor and glory and praise. Amen. 
 

Monday: We Need Love

Writing about love seems impossible. We have songs about it and movies declaring its virtues. Our souls long for it and our culture misunderstands it.  But if we were to be honest, for many of us love seems like an unrealistic expectation. We walk through our days dragging long personal histories of not being good enough for our family, our friends, or our communities. Allowing the shame to wash over us, we isolate ourselves accepting that the best we can offer is simply not enough to garner the love we so desire.  So we hide our lives away, cultivating picturesque social media platforms, and ignoring our need for connection.  

But why does this plague us so? From an early age we are taught that to receive love, we must earn it. The very idea of Santa cements in our minds the concept of a greater being patiently waiting to punish us for misbehavior. Even though the years have long passed since we found out he’s not real, the thought of his judgment still lingers. At the heart of it, we are still little kids wondering whether we’ve been nice or naughty. Have we earned enough love to get presents from Santa Claus? Have we earned our spot at the table? Is this the year we get coal? 

Or to put it in adult terms:
Will this present make him/her love me? 
Will I wake up Christmas morning to find that I am truly alone? 
Will they visit me again if I have a flawlessly ornate tree?  
Will my family finally accept me if I bring the perfect cinnamon rolls? 

But is this what Christmas was supposed to be?   

We can have our junk together in a thousand areas, but if we don’t have love, we are totally bankrupt.
— Jen Hatmaker (For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards)

 

We can have the most beautiful tree.
We can have the best presents. 
We can have the ugliest Christmas sweater. 
We can have the most delicious sugar cookies.

But if we don’t have love, we’re bankrupt. 

In that truth is the miracle of Christmas. It’s the miracle of John 3:16:
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.

God so loved the world that he came as a helpless babe into a world of hatred, a world that eventually crucified him. He didn’t create a naughty or nice list. He didn’t wrap up coal and give it to you in exchange for your sins. He simply asked all “who are weary and burdened” to come to him for rest. His burden is light. (Matt 28-30) 

That is Christmas. That is our story. A story we don’t deserve and a story most of us don’t intimately understand. 

So this Advent season let’s lay down our hatred and let’s get rid of our lists and our expectations. Let’s stop dragging around our inadequacies and shame. 

Let us exchange that for the truth of the season:

You, my friend, are dearly loved. Not for your accomplishments or your niceness. But for you. You are loved enough that Jesus laid in a manager and won the fight against darkness so that you might have life in the fullest, so that you might have love in the fullest.  

Live that truth. Spread that truth. Love in that truth. 
 

Sunday: The Light of His Hope

The Advent Wreath is a tradition that the Church has practiced for centuries! Each Sunday of Advent another candle is lit in honor of what Christ brought to us by becoming the incarnate God. 

The ring, often made of evergreen leaves, represents eternity. The hope Christ gives us is not temporary, but remain with us forever. 


Take a moment of silence to focus your thoughts. 

Light:

The candle of Hope

Read: 

This week we light the candle of Hope. 

The hope of God’s people was restored in the coming of the Messiah and, as God’s people, we are to hold onto the hope that he is making all things new. 

Pray:

A prayer of thanksgiving to God for providing hope through Jesus.

A prayer of request that you might be a bringer of  hope to your neighbors this Advent season.