Advent Week 4: Love

Advent Reading
Philippians 2:1-11

Love is sometimes a feeling but always an action. When Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples,” he wasn’t suggesting the disciples would experience toward one another an internal feeling the world at-large would somehow discern. He was drawing attention to their way of relating. He was highlighting the reality that as they lovingly lived with one another by relating in a way that brought the Kingdom to earth, they would outwardly demonstrate what it means to be followers of Jesus.

Christmas is a time we celebrate the incarnation. Love came down in the form of the Christ-child who would reveal to us what it means to relate in the Kingdom of God that now has come. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).

Love costs. Love cost Jesus his divine privileges, his position in heaven, his closeness to the Father and ultimately his life. After relinquishing his rights and taking on human flesh for our sake, we repaid his act of love with crucifixion on a criminal’s cross. He gave it all, and we demanded more. It hadn’t cost him enough. We wanted to see him pay with humiliation and contempt. Yet, his sorrow and pain didn’t keep him from continuing to move toward us. He stayed on the cross to take away the sin of those who not only didn’t appreciate it, but scorned it.

Love gives.
The Father gave the Son.
“For this is how God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son...” (John 3:16).

Jesus gave his life.
“Jesus gave his life for our sins...” (Galatians 1:4).

The Spirit gives us life.
“The Spirit alone gives eternal life” (John 6:63).

This loving spirit of giving shared by the Trinity marked the lives of the early church as they “shared everything they had” (Acts 2:44). At what cost? “They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need” (Acts 2:45). Early Christ-followers were known by their love, by their commitment to give to others even when it cost them something. That’s how the world still recognizes his followers today. Jesus said so.

Christmas is not only a time we celebrate Christ’s first coming, but we also eagerly anticipate his second coming. As we hope expectantly, we love. As we do, we bring the Kingdom to earth and reveal the heart of God to a world he loves so much that he held nothing back at a very high cost to himself.

Christmas Songs of Love
Midnight Clear (Love Song) - Chris Tomlin from Adore
What Child Is This - Chris Tomlin from Adore

Pray for Love
“Spiritually forming Christians neither use other people to make them feel better nor isolate themselves from people who might hurt them, but instead give whatever is alive and good within them for the sake of the other’s blessing, even when the personal cost is high. That’s love.” -Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams

Pray for this kind of love, a love that seeks to give to others even when the personal cost is high.

Thank the Trinity for the ways Father, Son and Spirit demonstrate their love by giving to us despite the cost and despite our response.

Celebrate Love
Reflect on how Jesus must have felt on the cross as he was giving his life as a sin offering for people who were insulting, condemning and crucifying him. In his greatest moment of suffering, he did not retreat or retaliate. He looked on the crowds with compassion, asking the Father to forgive them and not allowing their disdain for him to determine his response to them. Who specifically might God be calling you to love in this way during the Christmas season? Who might you be inclined to use or avoid to make yourself feel better or protect yourself from hurt? Is there something else alive in you that you might be able to offer this person instead?