Advent – A Season of Love – December 15, 2019, Third Sunday of Advent
December 15, 2019
This year, we’ve been using the themes of our Advent Candles for the themes of our Advent services. I think that’s been good! Maybe we’ve thought a little more about the old tradition of the Advent Wreath! So far, we’ve said that Advent is a season of Hope, and a Season of Faith. Today our Advent Candle tells us that Advent is a season of Love. And for me, this is the scripture that comes to mind first. (And there are many good ones!) This is this also the one I mentioned last week. “For God so loved the world…”
If you think about it, that’s a Christmas thought! Isn’t it? This is the time of year we celebrate the fact that God sent his Son into the world. And we might call that the “what.” That’s “what” happened. But then, here in this short, concise passage, we also see the “why.” God sent his Son, Why? Because he “so loved the world.” So here, at the ‘heart’ of the Christmas story, we see the ‘heart’ of God!
Sometimes we try to make our faith in God a “formula” don’t we? “You have to be good.” “You have to get right with God.” “You have to think of your eternal destiny.” So… You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry, you’d better not pout, I’m telling you why…” Sometimes we think that way, don’t we? Our faith is about “thou shalt not’s,” and things like that. “Watch out!” Because… “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good, for goodness sake!”
But here, in this one verse, we see that the whole of the Christmas story, the whole of the story of redemption, is about the heart of God. “For God so loved – Because God so loved… he gave his Son.”
I think it’s good sometimes to set aside all the theology of this, to set aside all the doctrine and tradition – even the idea of salvation and redemption – and simply see that God loves us. I try to do that this time of year. I try to comprehend – to fathom – the love of God! And it’s not easy! Because, don’t forget, that God loves us with an infinite love. Do we get that? God’s love isn’t just a footnote to the Christmas story. It’s on the title page! God loves us with a love that’s way beyond our understanding!
Think about how much you love your family or your friends… or even your pets. Well, that’s only an inkling of how much God loves you. Think about that for a moment. No matter how much you love the people in your life, it’s only an inkling of how much God loves you! And think about how you still love those people, even if they mess up from time to time. That’s how God loves and forgives you, and it’s even more than that!
That’s the second part of his verse. We often hear references to John 3:16, “For God so Loved the world…” But I like to add the next verse. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved.” And why? Again, because God so loved the world!
Now, we could stop right there, and that would be plenty! But there’s more! There’s more to Advent being “A Season of Love.” Because not only did God show his love for the world by sending Jesus. He also showed his love for the world in Jesus! The story of Jesus only begins at Christmas. In our celebrations of his life throughout the year we see the heart of God! In story after story, Jesus showed a compassion and a love for people that I think no one had ever seen before. And it made people uncomfortable! It certainly made them squirm, when he showed that love and compassion to “the wrong people.”
Advent is a season when we’re called to love – like Jesus. And it’s not all going to be a “feel good” kind of love. Christmas isn’t just about a baby! And who doesn’t love a baby, right?
No, it’s more! Jesus showed us God’s love. He loved the unloved. He reached out to the outcast. He hung out with those who nobody else would. He loved with the heart of God. And Advent is a season of such love. It’s about a love we show even though we might not feel like love! It’s about a love that asks, “Would God love this person.” It’s a love that’s shown, rather than just felt. “For God so loved the world that…” he did something about it.
Advent is a season where we do something about it!
Eternal God, we thank you that your love for us infinite. We thank you for your amazing Grace. And we thank you for the story of Jesus. Help us to love like he loved, to understand a little more what your heart is like, that we may so love the world you loved. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.