Advent 4: Midweek

December 23

Bible Portion:
1 John 4:16-21: God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (v. 18).

My good friend looked rather worried as he spoke. I know that God is great. I know that he is good. But …will he be good to me—today? Why would God love me when I find it hard to love myself? His question echoes in the hearts of many, today. Personal challenges, especially pandemics and the depression they deliver damages our confidence. God’s silence, however, does not point to his absence. Silence is God’s quiet invitation to you. Will you trust him today more than yesterday?

God works to fill in the blanks. In Exodus 25:17-22 we read God’s directions to Moses: make a golden cover for the Ark of the Covenant. Two golden cherubim stretch their wings over a gap of empty silence. It is God’s Most Holy Place. There, God reveals himself. In the gap. He alone can fill the yawning gaps within our lives. God says: There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the covenant law, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites (v. 22). The gap is a place of intimacy with the Living God. God who speaks to us as he speaks into the gap.

Fast forward to Resurrection Day. Read about it in John 20:11-18. Mary Magdalene is mentioned more than any other woman in the Gospels. She witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus. She goes to the tomb to see exactly where they have laid him. Then, with Joanna and Mary the mother of James, she goes to prepare about 100lb of spices with which to dress the body.

Early on Sunday morning—it is still dark— she returns to the tomb with the women and their spices. The stone is rolled away. But they cannot find the Lord’s body. Two men in shining garments ask, Why are you seeking the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! They leave, perplexed. Remembering the words of Jesus, they return to the disciples reporting all they’ve seen. Doubting disciples disbelieve the women. But Peter and John run, no, they race to the tomb. Stooping down, they find it empty.

In his account of these events, John describes the most intimate scene in Scripture. Jesus calls a woman her by her name: Mary! His call invites her to see beyond a gardener to behold the Savior. He opens her eyes; she recognizes him. He opens her heart; she receives her Lord. In our haste, we might have missed a vital detail in that dark tomb. It is a gap, filled by grace. God’s grace. He fills gaps and wounds we bring.

Mary (v. 11) saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Picture it. Remember the Ark of the Covenant: two cherubim, one on each side, guard the gap where the Lord appears and meets with Moses. Now, here, two angels—one on either end—guard the gap where the Lord’s body once lay: The Mercy Seat of God, a place of Atonement for our sin. Could the be one and the same? Scripture is silent on this. Jesus—who atones—now appears as Mary’s Lord.

God shows up in the gaps. At the Mercy Seat. In the empty tomb. In our unanswered questions—the mysteries of our lives. He meets us in places we once looked and could not find him. There he appear, removing doubts from unbelieving disciples. He takes away all fear—of Mary, and the women who seek him there. As we receive his love, Jesus also takes our fear …if only we will let him.

Are you willing to be made willing to receive more of God’s love in Jesus today? How might you help a friend or family member to recognize and receive Jesus as Lord, this Advent season?

Lord of the empty tomb, you stepped down from heaven’s fullness. You filled the empty place of a Suffering Servant. Fill every empty gap within me by the fullness of your presence. I turn from searching for answers. Instead, I seek your face. In your intimate presence I receive the love you showed to Mary at the tomb. You transformed her fear. Fill me fully with your love, Lord Jesus. Let fear find no room in my heart today. I am prone to panic, so I need Thee every hour. Meet me in the dark spaces, the empty places. I wait in faith for your soon coming. Call me by my name as I lift your praise on high. Amen.

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