2nd Sunday of Advent
The Star: A Journey of Love
(1 John 4:7-21)
VIDEO – Love Bumper video
Welcome to the second Sunday of Advent. I hope you have been rejoicing in this Advent season. Last week we talked about the word advent, which is a version of a Latin term which means “coming.” And so we use these weeks leading up to Christmas as a chance to look forward with great expectation to the coming of Christ as we embark on a journey of hope, love, joy, and peace.
While the star is only mentioned briefly in the Biblical texts concerning Jesus’ birth, it was a star that led people to Jesus, just as the star leads us to Jesus this Advent season.
So together we continue to look for the light as we follow the star on this journey of love. The star signals the brightest love, the love that never gives up, the love that conquered sin and death, the love that surrounds us daily and fills us eternally. Perfect love. God’s love embodied.
How do we understand love?
After college, Judy and I moved to Florida
While we were there we took in a kitten
Kittens are cute, but cats are not always cute
We had this cat for about a year
It wouldn’t allow us to keep our bedroom door shut at night, because it wanted to be able to come and go throughout the night
It’s morning ritual was to jump up on the bed, put its rear end in my face and knead my bladder with its front paws
Needless to say, after being asleep all night, my bladder was full
It was this cats way of getting me out of bed, so I would feed it
This cat did some other irritating things while we had it, but the day we had to take it to a shelter was extremely difficult
We were moving to a new apartment in an adult community and they did not allow us to have any pets (except fish)
Judy stayed in the car while I took our cat into the shelter
I was trying to be strong, but I broke down and cried as I signed the paperwork and handed our cat over
While the cat did some irritating things, we still loved it
We had a dog when we lived in Ohio
When we knew we were moving to Missouri, we tried to find a loving home for Socks, but weren’t successful
We didn’t want to take him to the pound
Several months before we moved, he was hit by a minivan and killed
I remember Wade’s words that day as we sat in the living room talking about Socks, he said, “I wasn’t ready for Socks to die!”
We weren’t ready for Socks to die either
We loved him and enjoyed his company even though he did some crazy things that would get on our nerves (like bringing a dead animal up from the ditch and then rolling in them)
We had a cat when we lived in Missouri
We had turtles in California
We have a dog and two cats now
We love Fester, CBS (Clyde, Barney, Skittles), and BTCP (Butterball, Tinkerbell, Cinderella, Precious)
I’m not looking forward to the day when they are no longer with us, even though I was not in favor of taking in the two cats
They have grown on me
Do you know how much Americans spent on their pets in 2016?
$60 billion [Michelle Castillo, “Americans Will Spend More Than $60 Billion on Their Pets This Year,” NBCNews.com, July 12, 2015, http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/americans-will-spend-more-60-billion-their-pets-year-n390181]
Why would we do that?
We walk them, clean up after them, vacuum up the hair, take allergy pills, clean the tank, apologize to the neighbors, and much more
We love them, so we spend our hard-earned money and time caring for them
It’s not because of anything they’ve done for us, but simply because we love them
How many of you can relate?
Have you or are you going to buy your pet a Christmas gift?
Is there anything you wouldn’t do to take care of your pet?
How many of you have taken your pet to the vet for a dental visit or some kind of surgery?
Who has or is currently giving their pet shots for diabetes or medication for some other health concern
We do all of that out of love
Please don’t think that I’m trying to compare God’s love for you with your love for your pet
God’s love is far greater than the love we lavish on our pets
Thinking about our love for our pets starts us down the road to think about God’s love for us
How do you perceive God’s love for you?
Do you feel you need to earn it?
Do you wonder if God’s love is meant for you?
Do you see the overflow of God’s love in your own life toward others?
Through this journey of love, today, God wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – We love because He first loved us.
As we look at the journey of love today, we’ll see that God’s love is a lasting, conquering, and overflowing love.
GOD (1 John 4:7-21)
Lasting Love [love that never gives up] (vv. 7-8, 16b-18)
Read 1 John 4:7-8, 16b-18
The key phrase we find in these two sets of verses is “God is love”
This is one of His many attributes
His love has no beginning or ending – no limits
His love desires our good and never desires harm or evil
He wants our love in return
Jeremiah 31:3, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
The love that the prophet Jeremiah is describing here is one that never ends
God loved us before we were even created
He continues to love us, without limits
He loves us even when we don’t love Him, even when we don’t desire to be in a relationship with Him
This is the love God the Father has for His creation – an unending, unlimited love
God doesn’t just love us with words, but He loves us with actions, as well
Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ dies for us
We’re going to learn more about that when we talk about the second point, conquering love
God’s love demonstrated at Jesus’ birth
We often talk about Christmas as the time “when love came down.”
We say God’s love entered the world as a baby
All of that is true, but God’s love didn’t begin at Jesus’ birth
His love has always been and will always be
It was manifested on earth during the creation of the world
The history of our world, the story of the Bible, is a love story from the first day of creation
It’s the story of God’s love for His people and His plan of redemption to bring us back into relationship with Him
David expresses in Psalm 139 these truths: God is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present. God knows us, God is with us, and his greatest gift is to allow us to know him
God’s love is expressed through the fulfillment of His plan in Jesus Christ
Paul explains this to the Ephesian believers
Ephesians 1:4-8, For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
God’s love does not depend on us
It’s not something we have to earn or perform for to maintain
It starts with God, not us – He is the One who initiated a relationship with us – He pursues us
God is love
It’s His nature and character – it’s who He is
His love for us was there from the beginning of time and will continue throughout eternity
God’s love is not only a lasting love, but it’s also a conquering love
Conquering Love [love that conquered sin and death] (vv. 9-10, 13-16a)
Do you ever have a hard time loving God?
Do you ever have a hard time accepting His love for you?
Do you ever doubt that His love is enough to cover all the pain, hurt, selfishness, and evil of our world?
Do you question whether or not His love is enough to cover the pain or hurt in your own heart?
God’s love is different than human love
The love of a father, mother, spouse, ex-spouse, friend, or enemy is not a perfect love
They can and will let you down, hurt you, abuse you, twist the concept of love to inflict damage or pain or heartache or to manipulate you
Those betrayals of love can seem hard to heal from or let go of
God loves you unconditionally
It’s not based on anything you’ve done or have to do
It’s not a limited amount of love for a certain period of time
God loves you purely, perfectly, wholly, and lavishly
He pours love out on us – no matter how unlovable or unworthy we may feel
God’s love is more vast and perfect than we can ever fully and completely understand with our human intellect
Ephesians 3:17-19, And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
God’s unconditional love was expressed for us through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection
Read 1 John 4:9-10, 13-16a
God’s plan through Jesus
God showed His love among us by sending Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins
We are all born with a desire to have our own way
Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God gave us a will and freedom of choice
When we choose sin it results in separation from God – a gap between God and us
Isaiah 59:2, But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.
Some of us chose avenues that do not bridge the gap, such as good works, religion, philosophy, morality, and many other things
There is only one way to bridge the gap that our sin has created between us and God
It is Jesus Christ!
This was who the Israelites were waiting for, but many of them missed Him, because He did not fit their preconceived ideas of what the Messiah was supposed to be like
God became man through the birth of Jesus Christ
God’s love was manifested on earth through Jesus
1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 3:18, For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.
Acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God
This simple fact is what separates true Christianity from the false religions of the world
When asked who they believe Jesus was and what He came to earth to do, their answers will inevitably avoid recognizing Jesus’ divinity
He was a good teacher
He was a another prophet from God
He was just a man
When we acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, then God lives in us – we have a relationship with Him
John 3:16, 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.
Admit your need (I am a sinner)
Be willing to turn from your sins (Repent)
Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose from the grave
Through prayer, invite Jesus Christ to come in and control your life through the Holy Spirit (Receive God’s eternal life)
My Next Step Today Is To: Acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God, believe that He died for me on the cross and rose from the grave, and receive His eternal life.
As followers of Jesus Christ we have this promise from God, written in Paul’s letter to the Romans
Romans 8:38-39, For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That’s an incredible promise from God
Our feelings can deceive us
When we’re going through difficult times, we may feel like God isn’t there or that He doesn’t care
When a financial crisis hits we may feel abandoned by God and alone
When God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we wanted Him to, we can feel like God doesn’t love us
When we see widows, orphans, and the poor living all around us or poverty and the ravages of war in other parts of the world, we can sometimes wonder why a loving God would allow those kinds of things to happen
The reality is that our loving God is in the middle of all of those situations (he is all-knowing, present everywhere, and sovereign)
Our feelings do not change the truths of God’s Word or His character
As followers of Jesus Christ we can know with confidence that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (we can claim that promise for ourselves today)
My Next Step Today Is To: Claim God’s promise that nothing will be able to separate me from His love
God’s love that conquered sin and death has been around forever and through the Holy Spirit it lives in us and overflows to others
Overflowing Love [love that overflows to others on our life’s journey] (vv. 11-12, 19-21)
Does anyone have company coming this Christmas? (Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles?)
While Christmas is a wonderful time to be together, let me ask you this question, how many of us will be sick of our relatives or guests after the third day of being together all the time?
Some of us may be feeling that way about your spouse and/or children
We can’t wait for the holidays to be done, and the Christmas break from school to end, so we can have some peace and quiet
It’s the very nature of God’s unending and unlimited love that it cannot be contained
God doesn’t want it to be contained
The Bible tells us to love others, even the people who seem unlovable
Sometimes that’s easy, and sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world
Expressing God’s love to others is not something we can do on our own
It only happens when we have been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ
When we believe in Jesus and repent of our sins, then the Holy Spirit immediately comes to dwell within us
He gives us the power to love everyone as God loves us
1 Peter 1:22-23, Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
That doesn’t mean it is easy, but it shifts our focus from trying hard to love others on our own, to experiencing the depth of God’s love in a way that allows it to overflow in our life to the people around us
Read 1 John 4:11-12, 19-21
We see in verses 11-12 that we should be willing to love others, because God loved us and sent Jesus to take our punishment for sin
In verse 19, John changes from saying that we ought to love to the fact that we do love, because God loved us first
John tells us that it is impossible for us to love God if we do not love other people
In verse 21 John gives us a command from Jesus, Whoever loves God must also love his brother
We love because He first loved us
God’s love is truly the whole reason we celebrate this season
The journey of love is not simply about words or even the feelings of acceptance – it is also a journey of action and truth
The gift of God’s Son that we celebrate was God putting love into action through Jesus
His love is an overwhelming love that calls and moves us to similar action
1 John 3:16, This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
Advent and Christmas can be an easy season to put this similar love into practice
It can also be a difficult season to practice God’s love overflowing through us
As you gather to celebrate Christ’s birth this year, will you allow His love to penetrate and overflow your heart as you abide with the source of all love?
My Next Step Today Is To: Be willing to allow God’s love to overflow into the lives of family members, friends, and coworkers.
VIDEO – “Advent_3_-_Love_English_Version”