Advent Week 4: Love

Alright, remember a couple weeks ago I told you that there would come a day when all the presents were bought and all the preparations would be done and you would be able to just sit and relax and enjoy Christmas.  That day has arrived for most of you.  There are only two more days until Christmas.  Guys, let’s be honest with ourselves now; if you haven’t gotten her that gift or been shopping at all, your time is up.  You’ve lost your chance.  Throw in the towel. 

Today we finish up the sermons on Advent.  We still have one more candle to light, the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve and I hope you’ll all be here to celebrate with us that evening, but this is the final part of the story.  The star is in the sky and the Wise Men are on their way.  Mary is particularly uncomfortable on her donkey and, if she’s anything like Cheris was at this point in her pregnancy, she is unhappy and probably yelling at Joseph for breathing too loud.

With the idea that this is the end of the story, let’s take a look at 1 John 3:16-20. 

16 We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17 How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sisterin need and yet refuses help?

18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

This is the final week of Advent.  It is the week of Love.  We have talked about the Hope of the Israelite people when things were at their worst.  We have talked about the Peace that the Messiah was to bring to them in their chaotic world.  We talked last week about the Joy of the Lord and how we are able to experience God fully and joyfully because of the gift of Jesus.  Today we talk about one of Jesus’ biggest points to his ministry while he was on Earth: Love.  Jesus spoke about Love A LOT.  All four gospels are filled with examples and stories of Jesus showing and teaching about Love.  Today we are going to look at a passage outside of the Gospels, but one that summed up Jesus’ ideals pretty succinctly. 

The book of 1 John was written by the apostle John, called the Evangelist, after the disciples were driven out of Judea and their various missionary journeys began.  John left and traveled to Ephesus where it is believed he lived for many years, and where he penned his letters.  This one, more like a sermon, was probably sent to multiple audiences at various locations.  John wrote during his time as a disciple and about the teachings he received from Jesus.  This is the message that he learned and received from Jesus about Love and how to recognize it.

John lays it out pretty simply here.  Jesus laid down his life for us out of Love.  We should have that amount of Love for each other.  We should Love each other enough to give out of what we have been given and to not be satisfied with what we have until others are taken care of as well.  We need to show others, especially our children, what it is to Love.  We can’t tell them; we HAVE to show them.  We should do all of this because of our devotion and Love we have for our God.

Like I said, Jesus preached quite a bit about Love.  He also spent much of his time showing and expressing the Love that he had for others.  He looked beyond the sins of the people he interacted with and Loved the person beneath that sin. 

So why is this an Advent message?  Here’s what I realized the more that I read this week.  The coming of the Messiah, the Savior, Immanuel, Jesus, was not the end of the story, but the beginning.  We may be at the end of Advent and at the end of the year, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus is the end of the story.  Jesus began the story anew.  I told you last week that the Old Testament was all backstory and that now the disciples could truly be with God because of Christ.  The main point of Jesus and his story is Love.  Jesus’s story is a Love story.  The entire point of Jesus and his birth and sacrifice is all rooted and based in Love.  He Loved us so much that he was willing to go to and die on the cross for you.  That is the extent of his Love. 

I did something the other day that made my wife mad at me.  I walked into the living room and she was watching one of those Christmas Love Story movies.  I sat down to do some work, not watching it, but being in the room that it was on in.  After a little while I looked up and asked if the woman in the story had realized that Love was in front of her all along.  I hadn’t seen a moment of the movie or had any idea what the plot of the movie was but those movies are all the same.  I knew that would be the end of the story one way or another.  And do you know what?  I was right. 

You see, I knew where the story was going and where it was going to end because that’s how all of those movies end.  The Jewish people had no idea that the “story” of their Messiah would end up being a story about Love.  They were hoping for “Braveheart” and they got “The Notebook” without the kissing.  It was not the ending they expected but it was the ending they got.  Never, in any of their minds, even in the minds of the disciples, Jesus’ closest friends, did they think their Savior and Messiah would be crucified and die.  That wasn’t a part of the plan.  That wasn’t on their storyboard.  However it is what they got and it turned out to be the best ending they could’ve hoped for.  It was the surprise ending to the story that changed everything.

This week we talk about Love.  John reminds us to Love one another as Jesus Loved us.  He tells us to teach that Love to our children and to anyone that doesn’t know about it.  He tells us to Love out of obedience to the God that taught it to us in the first place.  The story of the birth of Christ, when it is told, often ends in the manger, at the barn, surrounded by shepherds and Wise Men.  But that is not the end of the story, its just the beginning.  This week, this month, this season, I want to remind you and encourage you to live as John directs us.  Live a life of Love.  Remember that the purpose of this season isn’t about that baby being born, it is about that Savior, Loving each of us so much that he was willing to die for us without hesitation and without complaint.  That is the story, and that is a pretty great Love story.