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Seasons of Advent: LOVE

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Seasons of Advent: LOVE

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INTRO: What an incredible time we’ve had celebrating Advent together. We’ve embraced the first arrival of the Messiah, “For unto us a child is born” (), (we live with the JOY of the 2nd Advent - His coming into our hearts) and we live with the anticipation of the Messiah’s return, “I will come back and take you to be with me.” ().
The Light of the world has come and with His arrival HOPE has come. No longer do we need to be held in the “darkest misery of captivity.” There is no need for anything to hinder us from embracing HOPE. We can embrace the hope of glory, and He will reside within us!
When Light displaces the darkness, the response is true JOY. The Messiah has come and given JOY to those who choose to embrace the Light. JOY is the fruit of a right relationship with God and cannot be created by our own efforts.
When we apply the Light to the dark places in our lives, the Light chases away the unsettledness, anxiety, stress and fear — the Light brings a settled PEACE. Remember, the darkness doesn’t win, and His PEACE will never end! We must keep singing: Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, good will to men.”
I believe in these days of Advent, maybe more than at any other time, our world is open to receive the Good news: “For unto us a child is born.” We must live like this is exciting news! The Light who has saved us from ourselves must be seen where we live, work, and play. The truth is, everyone loves to hear the good news of a child being born. There is an atmosphere of great hope and joy, and a peace that is indescribable. There is a wellspring of love in the arrival of a child. Even the grumpiest of Scrooges find their hearts melt when they hold a new born in their arms. Advent tells us there is something transformative about a baby being born. (TEXT 2-6)
We live in a world that appears to be void of LOVE. When we see an individual senselessly take another life, we are seeing the absence of LOVE. When we witness people being marginalized we are seeing the absence of LOVE. I’m afraid far too many people truly don’t know LOVE, and don’t even recognize it when they see it. Sadly, we’ve turned LOVE into manipulation, bigger gifts, and the advancement of self. However, there is Good News, “For unto us a child is born.”
I. The Darkness Distorts Love (8:21-22): “Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.”
If we haven’t picked up on it yet, the darkness simply destroys everything caught in its shadow. It impairs, it blinds, it robs, and distorts truth. Isaiah has warned over the past several weeks, the darkness brings despair. Darkness is a JOY sucker, and darkness leaves the captive unsettled. Today he proclaims the darkness will distort the captives understanding of LOVE.
We hear so much of what LOVE is these days. We love food, the clothes we’re wearing, the movie we’re watching, and the person who’s meeting my wants (demands). If you make me happy, then I love you. If you tick me off, I don’t have time for you. The word is abused and rarely used in the context that truly defines what it means. I’m convinced much of what we think LOVE is, is nothing more than a distortion.
LOVE is not a bargaining chip, an excuse for poor behavior, nor a tool for manipulation. LOVE is not predicated on what someone does or does not do. That is a distortion. LOVE doesn’t mean I can act a fool and break relationship with others. It is a distortion to believe my actions of LOVE for one, results in bad behavior, attitude, and ugliness to others. LOVE is not simply a means by which I get you to do what I want you to do, nor to stop you from doing what I don’t want you to do. That is a distortion and is all about power and control. If we LOVE someone we don’t desire to control them. LOVE is compelling, but never pushy and/or overbearing. Those are all traits we see around us that come out of the distortion of the darkness.
True LOVE is not found in the darkness, but only the distortion and misguided concepts of LOVE. The darkness not only produces a counterfeit love that is manipulative and destructive, it also produces a shallow concept. LOVE is not ensuring that nothing is done that might upset you. “Well, we haven’t told them the whole story because we don’t want to upset them.” That is not LOVE. “Well, I don’t want to say ‘no’ to my kids because I want them to know I love them.” That is not LOVE either.
Neither is it LOVE when I shield you of the consequences of choices you’ve made. “I keep bailing him out because I LOVE him so much.” Sorry, that isn’t LOVE either.
Those are all emotional responses and / or manipulations that have been distorted by the darkness. They are unhealthy and will cause great damage. The sad reality is, these (and a host of other examples) are the only expressions of love most people know. These distortions of LOVE are also applied to our understanding of God. The mistruth is, God is a doting father who lets us get away with everything, and is quick to jump in and bail us out when things are carried too far. That’s not LOVE, that’s fantasy. The darkness tries to convince its captor everything is ok, and there are no consequences for choices that have been made. Scripture tells us...
II. The Light is LOVE (9:2, ): Isaiah reminds us, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” God the Father has shown LOVE to us in that He has cast the Light into the dark places of our lives. LOVE is the reality that He has, and continues to reveal Himself to us. He desires for us to come out of the darkness and into His LOVE. John says in : “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
LOVE is…the Son being sent to us. “For unto us a child is born, a son is given.” Isaiah’s prophecy entailed the great expression of the Father’s LOVE for us. John assures us, the Father has demonstrated LOVE by sending his “one and only Son.” The Father looked down upon us, saw the devastation of the darkness and sent One to be our Savior, One who would set us free. It required the greatest level of self-sacrifice on the Father’s part to send His only Son. The Father knew it would cost His Son’s life. LOVE is the Son being sent -- LOVE is self-sacrifice.
LOVE is…life in and with Christ. John said the Father sent the Son “...that we might live through Him. LOVE is giving someone the resources they need to be successful. We’ve often heard, “give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.” The first appeals to charity, the second is a response of compassion. A response of compassion is an overflow of LOVE. The Father didn’t just send the Son to us to die, but to live in us - to feed us for life. Jesus Himself told us, “I have come that you might have life and that more abundantly.” ()
LOVE is…unconditional. We find it easy to love those who love us first. When someone smiles and extends kindness it’s very easy to smile back and extend kindness as well. However, when someone is hostile towards us, or is closed off we find it very hard to extend that same smile and kindness. Paul tells us in , “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is not an act of reciprocation, that is taking the first step. The fact that He loves us has never been up for debate. He simply does, even when we refuse Him.
LOVE is…atoning for the wrong. The darkness would have us believe the wrong in our life is someone else's fault. It’s because of our environment, or even because we’ve been ill treated. The darkness would also have us believe to truly LOVE is to excuse the wrong, and except whatever scapegoat we choose to blame. That is a distortion of LOVE. Responsibility must be taken, and atonement made. Where there is brokenness we must make amends. Where there is wrong, we must seek reconciliation. LOVE requires that atonement be made.
God the Father understands this truth. He doesn’t look upon us and simply say, “well, they can’t help it - it will be ok.” He expects us to take responsibility for the darkness in our lives. He expects us to take ownership of where we find ourselves and seek LOVE to restore us. He also knows, that we cannot atone (make right) all the darkness in our lives. That is where Isaiah’s prophesy comes in. A Son is given. John says, the Father “...sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” We must embrace the Light - and embrace LOVE - and in doing so, LOVE applies the atonement for our darkness. LOVE - the Father applies the Light and makes us right in Christ and before the Father. This is the Good News of Christmas...
III. The gift of LOVE is for You (): “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to YOU; he is Christ the Lord.” We don’t have to stay in the deception and captivity of darkness. Christ has come that we might be set free from the “darkest misery of captivity.” The Son has been given that we might have a renewed HOPE, a tumultuous JOY, a settled PEACE, and a liberating LOVE. (BAND)
On this 4th Sunday of Advent, as we transition into Christmas Eve - let’s receive the Light of the world. Let’s come to His table and embrace His LOVE. Coming to His table is a means of grace. As we receive the elements, contemplate the Light scattering the darkness that we might have life in Christ. Ready your heart. If the darkness has a grip on your life, I can think of no better time than during Communion to receive the Light and LOVE.
Receive the bread and the cup -- soak up the Light -- we’ll receive together.
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