Fourth Advent Sunday: Love!

December 20

Bible Portion:
John 3: 16-19: 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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

Focus:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (v. 17).

Reflect:
“I can’t feel love! In fact, I can’t feel any emotions!” The older gentleman talked sadly about his unhappy childhood. It’s result? His adult life feels emotionally numb. “I really want to love my kids. Yet, when I look, I find no trace of love within my heart.” To give love, first we must receive it. In the love department, God never holds back! He gives love-without-limit. God does not condemn; his Christmas gift is Love. Love’s name is Jesus and he knows your name. He holds it in the nail prints of his hands.

My friend, Eric, sometimes tells a story: I loved my Dad. One day, I was walking with him down the street. He held my tiny hand inside his big, strong hand. I felt secure—and deeply loved. Looking down at me, he said, “Eric there’s something I need you to know.” I smiled and said, “What’s that, Dad?” Quietly, he said, “Eric, you …are good for nothing!” I felt condemned. Devastated! He saw a tear rising in my eye. “No, Eric. You haven’t heard me properly. I want you to know that you are good. For nothing. For no reason! You never have to prove to me that you are good. You are my son. I have always loved you; and I always will.” Imagine how I felt! I still feel his special love. Not condemned—just loved beyond measure!

Eric’s father reflects our Heavenly Father’s love. Created in his image, we are called to show his likeness. Every human being carries God’s image from birth. Those who trust Jesus carry his likeness—Christ in us. Christmas invites us, by God’s grace, to be the best version of who we are as we first receive, and then pass on, the light and love of Christ to others. The stillness of Advent whispers the carol’s message. In unison, we sing:  How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv'n! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heav'n. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in. Now, that’s true harmony!

Shepherds receive him; bowing wise men, too. Will you bow with them? On our knees can we enter heaven. Humble prayer receives the Savior. Born in Bethlehem, crucified at Calvary, risen again, seated with the Father, and he soon will come to claim his own. Trust him now, that your name be found in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Share him those along your path. Let Christ be seen in you, the hope of glory!

Consider:
How did you receive the Savior’s love-without-condemnation? Where do you see God’s love at work in your life? Today, how might you draw a friend into Christ’s love that knows no limits?

Pray:
Lord of Love, in desert places and dangerous spaces I cry out to You. I seek your safety, mercy, and forgiveness. Living God, I receive your anointing grace in my heart’s most barren place. This Advent, I come thirsty to the oasis of your love. Tenderize my heart today. I receive afresh your love in Jesus. Holy Spirit, fill me anew with your empowering presence. Living God, I bow before you in joy-filled praise. Receive my heartfelt prayer, for the Father’s glory and the blessing of many. Amen.

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