Week 4: Love

It really comes down to that:

God loves us.

"First we were loved," wrote the apostle John, "now love" (1 John 4:19 MSG). God always takes the initiative--he blessed first, served first, comforted first, and most of all, loved first. And then it's up to us. How will we respond? At Advent, while much of the world around us is enamored by distractions and Lester loves, we seek to discover a new our first laugh, the love that "came down at Christmas," and then to share that love by blessing, serving, and comforting others.

 

Scripture

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

Micah 5:2-5a

Titus 3:3-8

Luke 1:39-55

 

Questions for Reflection

1. "The story of Christmas is the story of God's relentless love for us, let him love you.... You might question his actions, decisions, or declarations. But you can never, ever question his zany, stunning, unquenchable affection."

• As you reflect on your relationship with God, when would you say you were most aware and most certain of God's love for you? How, specifically, did you let God love you?

• Even though God's love is always a parent, we go through seasons when we doubt it. What, if anything, has led you to question God's love for you?

• Do you find it difficult to let God love you in your current season of life? Why or why not?

2. Came to expressing the wonder of God's love, the Psalmist couldn't help but break into song:

I will sing of the Lords great love forever;

 with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known

 through all generations.

I will declare that your love stands firm forever,

 that you have established your faithfulness in heavenitself

(Psalms 89:1-2)

This is a heart-wide-open declaration that reflects all the fervency and devotion of a first love. The Psalmist essentially said to God, "Your loyal love is so amazing that I will never stop singing about it!"

• Using temperature as a gauge, which of the following statements comes closest to describing your heart right now?

   Hot. I am so amazed by God's love for me I can't help sharing it with outhers.

   Warm. I am committed to my faith, but I'm not as passionate about God or as loving toward others as I should be.

   Cold. Distant from or ambivalent about God.

   Other:

• What connections could you make between the statement you just checked and your responses to your question one? In other words, how might your willingness to let God love you affect your ability to love God and others wholeheartedly?

 

3. The apostle Paul sought to rekindle in his readers the flames of love for God and others by reminding them about who they were before they received God's love:

We.... Were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice in envy, being heated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of Rachel's things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:3-5)

Jesus said, "a person who is forgiven little shows only little love" (Luke 7:47). Paul wanted his readers to show great laugh, so he reminded them of how much they have been forgiven. He then spelled out the implication of gods sacrificial love for us:

I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. (Titus 3:8)

• What words or phrases come to mind when you consider who you were before you gave your life to Christ and receive God's love? (If you find this difficult because you gave your life to Christ as a child, use the apostle Paul's description as a starting point and consider instead the darkness you were saved from because of your early relationship with God.)

• does remembering who you were before Christ (or what Christ has saved you from) affect you? In what ways, if any, does it increase your awareness of your love for Christ?

4. Echoing the apostle Paul's teaching in the Titus passage, think about this "in the manger God loves you; through the cross God saves you. But has he taking you to his home? Not yet. He has work for you to do. He wants the world to see what God can do with his purchased possessions."

• It has been said, "it is Christmas every time you let God love others through you." How have you recently experienced "Christmas" because God loved you through someone else?

• Words or phrases would characterize this person and his or her devotion to doing what is good (Titus 3:8)? Based on his or her example, how would you complete the following sentence in your own words? Letting God love others through me means...

• how would you describe the work that you sense God has for you to do right now, the ways in which he seems to be inviting you to do good and bring "Christmas" to others? Or, what do you hope God can do with you, his beloved possession?

Advent prayer

Come, Lord Jesus. I love you.

 

Advent practice

Consider using one or more of the following options to help you practice and experience love this week.

• Focus your thoughts and daily prayers on your love relationship with God. At the beginning of each day, invite God to show you how he loves you. Drawing on the example of Psalm 89, tell God how much you love him, focusing not only on his good gifts to you but also on who he is--loving, patient, good, holy. Or if you struggle to express your love to God, tell him why, and ask him for his help. Before the week is done, "go public," as the song is dead, and share with at least one other person something you've learned about God's love for you or your love for God or an example of how God demonstrated his love for you this week. If you find it helpful, write down your daily prayers, your expressions of love to God, and your observations as you look expectantly each day for God to show you how he loves you.

• Author Glennon Doyle Melton wrote, "every time we open our mouth and speak, we are either saying let there be light or let there be darkness." In the spirit of Advent, show love this week by seeking to bring light with every word you speak. As a visual reminder, use the image of a star or a candle as the wallpaper on your laptop or phone, or place a few sticky notes around your home or workplace that say "speak light!" Or "let there be light!"

• Choose one relationship to focus on this week. It might be a spouse, a child, a parent, a coworker, a friend. Filter every interaction with this person through one question: what does love require of me in this moment? Then do it. Let love dictate your demeanor, your body language, your words, your actions. Use a notepad or a journal to write down your observations each day, Recording any challenges or effect your commitment to live has on your relationship.

 

Advent Hymn

ANGELS FROM THE REALMS OF GLORY

Angels from the realms of glory,

Wing your flight o'er all the earth;

Ye who sang creations story

Now proclaim Messiah's birth.

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn king.

Shepherds, in the field abiding,

Watching o'er your flocks by night,

god with us is now residing;

Yonder shines the infant light:

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn king.

Sages, leave your contemplations,

Brighter visions beam afar;

Seek the great Desire of nations;

Ye have seen His natal star.

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn king.

Saints, before the altar bending,

Watching long in hope and fear;

Suddenly the lord, descending,

In His temple shall appear.

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn king.

Sinners, wrung with true repentance,

Doomed for guilt to endless pains,

Justice now revokes the sentence,

Mercy calls you; break your chains.

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn king.

Though an Infant now we view Him,

He shall fill His Father's throne,

Gather all the nations to Him;

Every knee shall then bow down:

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn king.

All creation, join in praising

God, the Father, Spirit, Son

Evermore your voices rasiing

To th'eternal Three in one.

Come and worship, come and worship,

Worship Christ, the newborn king.

 

Lyrics: James Montogomery, 1816

He was great love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

1 John 3:1

 

Regardless of what else you put on, where love. It's your basic, all purpose garment. Never be without it.

Colossians 3:14 MSG

 

[Jesus] does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

 

The heavenly father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core--which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word "love."

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

 

Truly he taught us to love one another, his law is love and his gospel is peace.

Placide Cappeau, "O Holy Night"

 

Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is gooder than we ever dared hope, and that to believe in that good news, to live out of it and toward it, to be in love with that good news, is of all glad things in this world the Gladys thing of all. Amen, and come, Lord Jesus.

Frederick Buechner, The Clown in the Belfry

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