Your Love Came Down

Advent

Your Love Came Down

Sunday, December 4, 2022   

 

Welcome: Read Psalm 95: 1-3

Advent: Love, Doug and Laurie

It’s December and this weekend has been packed with all sorts of fun Christmas activities, and if you’re like my family, it begins a whirlwind month of one event, family tradition, and gathering after another. This month flies by and of course, there is also decorating in our homes and buying presents if you participate in that. All wonderful and fantastic things to do with family and friends, and yet, this time of year can also bring out anxiety, stress, tension, and even quarrels among loved ones. Instead of seeing goodwill and cheer, we can see quite the opposite. We can get drawn into that negative, Grinchy behavior even. And when we go there, we have completely forgotten what Christmas is all about. 

Many of us have created traditions with baking special treats, decorating our homes, hanging lights outside, and all sort of other activities, but none of that is what Christmas is truly about. 

We must keep front and center in our hearts that Christmas is a celebration and reminder that our God and Lord of all creation, left His place in glory and came down to enter this world in the flesh of a human; as a baby. He set aside His deity and related to us in every way as a person, fully man. Not only to be here among us but to be our sacrifice as the Lamb of God. God gave His Son to take our place in death, so we might receive His life as He resurrected. God sent Love Himself down from heaven so we might know the depths of His love through His great sacrifice and experience the kindness of His love through the life of Jesus Christ. 

It is a love like no other because it is love divine-pure and righteous. It is a love we are all invited to receive and a love we are to model as we look upon Jesus. 

So while we do all these fun festivities, may our greatest joys be found as we contemplate the wonders of His love this advent season. May pondering the gift of His love prepare our hearts to celebrate Christmas. 

Because without Christ and the miracle of love sent down from Heaven, manifested into a baby, Christmas is just another commercialized holiday. And it’s that mindset that can bring out the wrong motives and heart posture toward others. It’s that mindset that can bring out the Grinch in us. But if we remember and focus on the love of God, then Christmas and all the preparations we do leading up to that celebration bring joy overflowing in our hearts, and praises of thanksgiving for the gift of such amazing love. Especially when we remember this is not a love we can ever earn. 

So let’s be reminded of God’s pure love and let’s look more closely at how we are called to live so that the full expression of God’s love might be seen in us. 

1 John 4: 9-18 NLT      

 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. 10 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. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 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. 13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 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. 17 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.18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.

 

  • Jesus’ Birth is the Manifestation of God’s True Love.  

God has always loved us, His creation. He purposed out of His great love for us, to make a way for us to be saved from the righteous judgment for our sin-to save us from eternal judgment- to save us from eternal separation from Him, our Holy God. Out of love, He did not want to be separated from His creation; He wants to be in a close relationship with each of us, delighting in us and all that we encounter in life. But in our sins, we were separated from God. So God did what only He could do-He became the sacrifice our sin required. You see life is in the blood, so in God’s economy to atone for sin, the blood of an innocent being had to be shed-trading places with the guilty person or persons and taking their place in punishment. God is just and righteous so sin has to be punished. God did not want any to perish but for all to be saved and be in the right standing with Him so we could enjoy a beautiful, loving relationship together. 

Enter in Jesus-the manifestation of God’s true love and the sacrifice required to atone for the sins of the world, once and for all. Literally, all sin was transferred and put-upon Jesus as He died on the cross-all of it- and out of love He took the punishment in our place, by the shedding of His blood. 

In His holiness, He could have remained on high and sent forth judgment through all the earth for the sins we are all guilty of and let us perish in our sins. He would be right to do so. In His love, He came down Himself and said I’ll take this for you. 

 

John 3: 16-17  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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Ephesians 1: 4-5 NLT Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Bringing us into His family, receiving us as a son or daughter, gives Him great pleasure. 

Galatians 4: 4-7 NIV But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

This is why Jesus had to come and He had to die. He had to come in the flesh, taking on the full nature of man, and be born of a woman who was held guilty under the law; so that in His death He could redeem all of humanity from the law through His innocent blood. Because He was without sin, He fulfilled the law in every way, and in His blood shed He ushered in a new covenant of grace extended to all who believe in Him. We are not held to the law anymore and are found guilty. We are under His grace and have His Spirit guiding us into righteousness. So in the birth of Jesus, we see the manifestation of God’s love and His divine plan to bring us into the right standing and relationship with Him. 

It’s easy to love God when we allow the truth of His love to move from our heads to our hearts. How can we not return love to Him who gives His love so freely and wonderfully to all? But as we read in our 1 John 4, we are reminded that it is not enough to simply love God; we are called to love others too. Why? 

To bring the full expression of God’s love. 

  • Loving Others Brings the Full Expression of God’s Love.  

1 John 4:12 12 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.

So the manifestation of God’s love is only complete as we all receive and give of His love to Him and to others. 

Maybe you have had thoughts or even said at times, “I’m fine with believing in God and dealing with Him, it’s just everybody else I can’t stand, or try to avoid.” Ever felt like that? Or maybe you have thought or heard others say, “I’d like church a whole lot better if it weren’t for all those people that are so difficult.” 

Well, Jesus has something to say about that. 

John 13:34 NLT 34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

First, we need to know when there is a commandment, this is not a suggestion or something we can consider when we feel like being nice. We are called to love each other but not just love as we want to define it-for which I am thankful… because there are some pretty dysfunctional definitions of love out there.

Jesus commands us to love others as He has loved us. 

Let’s pause on that for a moment. Why do we need to love others in such a way? They don’t all deserve it. They won’t all appreciate it or even return it. And isn’t this exactly what Jesus faced with all humanity and loved us first, extending compassion, mercy, grace, and forgiveness to us whether or not we received it or returned it? 

So this time of year when patience runs short and people are scurrying about, we are to love one another as Jesus loves us; when families gather and all our dysfunctions are on display, we are to love one another as Jesus loves us; when we are faced with a decision to help others, to give from what we have, we are to love one another as Jesus loves us; when we receive phone calls that interrupt our planned merry-making festivities, drawing us away from Christmas movies into the cold to help someone who is in bind-we are to love others as Jesus loves us. 

There is more in how He calls us to love others as He loves us. He calls us to also forgive one another, for when we withhold forgiveness to others, we are blocking the flow of His love. We are hindering the full expression of His love. I want to encourage you to think in your hearts if you are harboring any unforgiveness, even to those who have passed on, and repent today and with the help of the Holy, Spirit-choose to forgive those who have wronged you. Forgiving doesn’t sweep something under the rug as it if never happened, it restores the free flow of God’s love to your heart as you remove the barrier of bitterness, hate, and resentment.

Jesus even prayed while people were mocking Him on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  

He wasn’t without being hurt, deeply wounded, rejected, and abandoned. He lived it to the full extent and yet in love, He chose to forgive. 

Not only are we to forgive, but we are also to bless those who speak against us. 

Romans 12:14 NIV 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

You see, we have authority given to us through Christ and the power of His Spirit within us and we are to use it wisely. In our words, there is life or death; blessing or curse. We have to know what we speak sends forth power over ourselves and others. So Jesus says bless others, do not curse them. For when we choose to bless others who wrong us, we are allowing the full expression of God’s love to be seen and experienced. That includes our own personal experience of God’s love at work in us. 

You might be thinking that sounds really nice PK-but you don’t know how awful this person is, or the horrible things this group of people has done…they disgust me and I want them to pay for what they have done. I just can’t forgive them. I can’t speak blessing over someone like that. 

Maybe that cursing and unforgiveness are held against yourself-and you just can’t forgive yourself for things you have done or said. 

And that is the truth and the problem we find isn’t it with this command to love others as Jesus loves them, or ourselves… we are looking at “I” and what I feel and I think about a person, a situation, or myself. 

When we are caught up in this thinking, we will likely harbor unforgiveness and we will likely speak curses over others or ourselves. But this is completely opposite of God and His expression of love in this world. This is absolutely in alignment with the enemy who brings in darkness and hate. We unknowingly further the kingdom of darkness when we harbor unforgiveness. 

So what is the only solution and way to help us love others as Jesus loves them? To love ourselves as Jesus loves us? 

 

  • Live in God and Grow More Perfect in Love.  

 

We have to purpose to live in God as our Scripture says, for as we live in God, we live in love. And as we choose to live in God, our love which is His love within us grows more perfect. 

How do we really do this? We have to purpose in our hearts to let go of self; to let our old self die and embrace the new creation that we are in Christ. To really believe we are no longer a separate entity, self-contained, operating in our own power, but we are fused together with Christ for eternity and have His Spirit dwelling in us as our constant guiding light. This will be a great struggle for some who are so fixed on being independent. But that is not of God. 

Galatians 2:20 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This takes ongoing practice and intentionality. When we catch ourselves responding in an unloving way towards someone else or ourselves, we must stop, repent of that thought and action, and ask the Spirit to bring us back into the love of God. We then respond through His love by seeing those people or ourselves through the loving eyes of Jesus. What does He want us to see about them, about our government, our community, our schools, our bosses, our spouses, our children, and our parents…. See them as Jesus does and see them in the Light of Love.  Then speak blessing, not curses; speak life, not death; speak love and hope.   

1 John 4:17 NLT 17 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.

                               

Conclusion:  Love’s pure light came down from heaven, in the form of a baby to later become a sacrifice and salvation unto all the world. Let us receive the fullness of God’s love for it is His greatest gift, through His Son Jesus. Let us really love others as Christ loves them and bring the full expression of God’s love into this world. 

Let’s pray: 

 

Communion: As we prepare our hearts to share in the sacrament of communion together, let us today focus on the love of God and the love of Christ who scorned the shame of the cross and endured it all unto death for the joy set before Him. 

I want to share the trade off’s of what He took upon Himself that we were deserving of because of our sins, and what He gave to us instead. Listen in your heart today and receive these truths of blessing you have been given through Christ’s death and resurrection. 

 

On the cross, Jesus was punished, so that we might be forgiven. 

He was wounded, that we might be healed.

He was made sin with our sinfulness, that we might be made righteous with His righteousness.

He died our death, that we might share His life. 

He became poor with our poverty, that we might become rich with His riches.

He bore our shame, that we might share His glory.

He endured our rejection, so that we might have His acceptance as a child of God.

He became a curse for us, that we might receive the blessing. 

 

Take a moment and let those truths settle into your heart this morning and let us give thanks for the gift of God’s love that sent His Son Jesus down from heaven, to be born so He might be the sacrifice required to bring salvation to all the world. Let these truths settle into your heart and ponder what they mean for you even now because we’ll be focusing more on these truths as we enter the new year. These are not just gifts for when we join Him in heaven. They are gifts and blessings here and now in our life as we learn to appropriate them. What a kind and loving Savior we have. 

Mark 14:22-24  22 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”

23 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. 

Prayer-thank You Jesus! 

Offering: the special gift of love to Constanza, DR for their projects and direct needs at the site. 

Prayers: 

Final Blessing: 2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, and live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

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