Love: The 4th Candle of Advent
How does one love what one must destroy? How does one destroy what they dearly love?
What is the solution to such a predicament?
When Love Was Born
4th Sunday in Advent: Love
Christmas a call to Hope, to Peace, to Joy and today the Advent Candle-lit reminds us, love.
John 3:16 (MSG)
"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.
Today we are going to look deep into the love of God, the predicament God had to deal with, the resolution to that predicament and finally our response to be the recipients of so great a love.
We must delve underneath all the traditions of our celebration of Christmas, deeper than the trimmings, the wrapping, the cards, the gifts, the feast, to discover the love that is in Christmas. Christmas is about the coming of a savior.
To understand the love demonstrated in Christmas we have to understand something about the nature and attributes of God that have been revealed to us in the scripture. An attribute is a one-word description of who God is and what God is like, you can think of an attribute as a character trait, God’s moral character. I am not going to list the 28 attributes but simply draw our attention to the attributes of holiness, love and of wrath.
We see examples of God wrath in both the Hebrew Bible what we Christians call the Old Testament and in the New.
John 3:36 (NIV)
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
It should not be surprising that God would hate anything opposed to his holiness. There is much we can say about God’s holy character but for now, it suffices to say that God is separate for all that is sin. We have a working definition for sin, sin is anything the deters, damages or destroys right relationships. Sin is the label we place on anything that is not in accordance with God’s intent.
If you consider sin a crime against the God’s holiness, as a personal affront to Him, you can understand why wrath passes judgment upon sin, condemns sin, passes sentence upon the sin and the perpetrator of that sin. With this dynamic the truth of the words of the prophets really hits hard:
Ezekiel 18:20 (NIV)
The soul who sins is the one who will die.
The holiness of God requires that anything that is not as God intends must be made right or destroyed. Keep this in mind, “anything that is not as God intends must be made right or destroyed.”
Within and flowing through God is the Creation. Part of that creation is humanity.
Humanity is created in the very image of God, (Genesis 1:27) endowing His creation with free will. Free will, un-coerced volition is necessary to choose the intimate relationship that God desires with every human being. (Joshua 24:15) That intimate relation can only be entered into and cultivated by choice. You can be forced to do many things, but you cannot be made to love what you choose not to love.
In Genesis, the scripture reveals how the abuse of humanity’s free will resulted in sin. Years later the Apostle Paul spells it out for us.
Romans 5:12-13 & 14 then 3:23 and 6:23 (NIV)
“…just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-- for before the law was given, sin was in the world….even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam” …”…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” … “…the wages of sin is death…”
God’s wrath destroys everything that does not fit or harmonize into or with Him. Death is the warning of the curse of sin that is upon us. Hell is the symbol we are given for separation from God. The wrath of God brings death and Hell upon everything and everyone that is not in accordance with His intent for His creation. (Psalm 5:4 MSG)
God’s wrath condemns sin because sin ravages all that is good and beautiful that He has made. Sin destroys unity, enslaves, deforms, perverts, oppresses, murders and hides the truth. Sin lies, offering pleasure but soon delivering only pain. Sin promises you heaven, “You will be like God,” but soon delivers hell. (Genesis 3:5) God cannot allow Sin to exist for it ruins His creation, it ruins you.
God’s predicament is that His nature is to enjoy intimate dynamic relations with each and every human being while at the same time His nature is to destroy Sin.
God’s attributes of Love and Holiness create an inner tension. How can He destroy the ones He loves? How can He allow sin to remain? God’s solution, the resolution of the predicament, is Christmas.
God, Himself enters into His creation to save His creation from Himself. God incarnates, incarnate means to put a body on. (John 1:14, Philippians 2:7). I do not understand how Jesus and the Father can be the same (John 10:30), at the same time, but that is the mystery the scripture presents to us.
Colossians 1:19-20 (NLT)
God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
Christmas is motivated by God’s love for His creation, His love for you. God enters bodily into His creation (Galatians 4:4), through a womb, so that He can be human. Like Adam, Jesus is born unencumbered by the curse of sin. This is why I believe in the necessity of the virgin birth (Luke 1:35, Hebrews 4:15).
Luke 1:35 (NLT)
So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.
In a very real sense Jesus undoes everything the Adam did, satisfying his justice by sacrificing himself, the responsible party, thus His love making an atonement for the sins of His creation.
Christmas is motivated by love. It is a love with which God seeks to restore a right relationship with you. So that things between you and Him may be as He intended.
Now, this Christmas, God has done everything He can to reconcile you to Himself. But He can’t force you. He blessed you with free will so that you could choose Him, so that you can respond to His love, by pledging your devotion to Him.
In order to receive this gift, you must do just the opposite of what Adam did. Adam choose to reject a righteous relationship with God through disobedience. In order to receive this gift, you must follow the example of Jesus who held obedience to God more precious than life itself.
Consider these words of Jesus:
Matthew 13:44 (NIV)
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
To receive the gift you have to go all in. No hedging your bet. You acknowledge you’re subject to the wrath of God. You believe Jesus by means of His blood upon the cross makes it possible for you to be made right with God. Then you commit yourself to obedience, to discipleship, asking God to accept your faith.
The gift of God’s love will open up to you.
Those who have received the gift of Christmas through their faith in Christ then allow this love to transform them, to change them from the inside out, conforming their character and nature in accordance with the attributes of God. (2 Corinthians 3:18).
If you are a partaker of God’s gift of salvation you are to be like Him in this world, like Jesus, who set aside His privileges to become a servant, to meet the needs of others. (Philippians 2:6-7). God’s love born in your heart compels you to be to service, to respect everyone and seek to meet the needs of others as the opportunity presents itself. As children during Christmas, we anticipate “What we are going to get.” But as disciples of Christ, we need to concern ourselves with what we are going to give. God in Jesus gave Himself, and we are to follow that example and in love give ourselves to others.
1 John 4:12 (MSG)
“…if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!”
In the light of our 4th Advent Candle, we have gotten a glimpse of the predicament God had to deal with, the resolution to that predicament and seen a great self-sacrificial love.
In that light if it is your desire to give yourself to the one who gave Himself to you, I invite you to kneel at that manger, to bend the knee, going all in, giving your all to receive the gift of reconciliation that God has made available to you in Christ.
Disciple of Jesus we have delved deep beneath the status quo traditions of our Christmas celebration and have been reminded that we have a responsibility to give away what we have been given. As God Himself was in the world, loving people in Christ, so now you, indwelt with the Spirit of God, are to go into the streets, the places you live and work and bring love to others. If God’s love is within you it compels you, a calling that cannot be ignored. If not I suggest you examine your relationship with God and make sure of your devotion.
“God doesn’t want things from us, [as much as] God wants things for us.” (Sarah Bessey) Christmas is a demonstration of how we are loved and how to love one another. Go be loved and be a lover. This will make for a Merry Christmas.
Somewhere in Your Silent Nighthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT-5cP4BeoI