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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Advent 2016: Love

This week is the last Sunday before Christmas, the wreath is all lit, awaiting the most important piece. We have all been on a journey over the last four weeks and have been preparing for Jesus. This week He is here.

Advent is a word that means “coming” or “visit”. In the Christian season of Advent, we prepare for the “Coming” of Christ at Christmas while longing for His Return. This morning, we continue to light the advent candles as we move towards Christmas and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The lights of Hope, Peace, and Joy flicker over this Advent wreath. They flicker over our lives. As we move closer and closer to Christmas with each passing day we realize that throughout history these lights have penetrated the gloom of this world.

Yet, darkness is still present. None of us can deny that. Death, Gloom, Despair. We can almost hear the exhale of the earth as we cry out. The shadow of death, of hate, of Adam's Fall continues to roll over us. Everyday there is a new catastrophe. Every hour there is negativity that wafts in with every passing breeze. Our souls are dampened and weighted down with the hurt 2016 has brought. How can we be joyful when we let the reality of life settle into our minds?

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight
As we meditate on Jesus, we can become conscious that there is a horizon of light approaching us…

...The love of “God With Us”.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
-Hebrews 12:1b-2 NIV 

I wonder if the Father wept with joy as the greatest of Christmas gifts, His Son Jesus, was placed in a manger’s crib. God’s mighty, miraculous gifts of love are found in unsuspecting, even difficult places. Toys break; clothes shrink. But love endures. It overcomes. Life’s circumstances do not diminish it. Are you looking for love this Christmas? We are told to look in a lot of different directions, but God gives us an incomparable gift. From the Manger to the Cross to His presence with us, the Love we long for is found in Jesus.

Love: This power is what gives fuel to the other themes. After all, what Hope do we have outside of the Love of God? What kind of Peace can we experience without the Love of Christ in our hearts and minds? And Joy, there is no Joy without Love. We remember that Christ demonstrated self-giving love in his ministry as our Good Shepherd. May Our Shepherd lead us evermore into His love this Christmas season.

Scripture reminds us that The LORD our God is in our midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over us with gladness; he will quiet us by his love; he will exult over us with loud singing. God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. No one has greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
This season, marked by the giving of gifts, is a time to love as God loved us by giving us his most precious gift. As God is love, we are also to love.
We remember that out of darkness light shines. The true light of life whose love overcame darkness, and whose love is our light, both now and forevermore is here. Today, we light the Love candle.

*Someone will light the fourth candle as the reading continues*

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.
And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.
-1 John 4:7-21

We may not have answers to the darkness that this world holds... but the clouds of doom will dissipate. We can trust that Jesus' coming can redeem anything that may befall us. The fog of sin cannot hold anything over us. For light has come, light is among us, light is coming again. Grasp that truth, let it pump hope into your weary heart, and let us be reminded that Joy and Peace are choices that Love gives us, even among times such as these.

Everlasting Father,
Thank you for the reminder this morning that above all and among everything you are, you are love. We will never fully be able to grasp the depths of your love, but it still beckons us to respond. May we respond with our whole hearts this Christmas season. May we look for your graces wherever we go. We pray this in the name of your Son, Our Savior, Jesus, Amen.


Nathan Bryant

is a pastor in East Orlando, FL. He loves the outdoors, whether it is camping in the mountains or jumping through the waves at the beach, nothing is better than enjoying God’s creation. Nathan longs for unity and commitment to Jesus to be a defining element in the global church of his generation.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

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