When Love Came Down

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Think of all of the things you’ve been doing to get ready for Christmas this year. Think of all the preparations, the planning, the lights, and everything that goes into it – what one word would you use to describe your experience of Christmas? Family, food, presents, busy, full, exhausting, festive, celebration, lights, singing, church, baby Jesus. I’m curious – does the word love comes to mind.
 
There is a very famous passage from 1 Corinthians 13. It’s called the Love chapter. Recently I came across a version in which someone applied it to Christmas.
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If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny balls; but do not have love, I’m just another decorator.
 
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime; but do not have love, I’m just another cook.
 
If I work at a soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity; but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
 
If I trim the tree with shimmering angels, and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir; but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
 
Love stops the cooking to hug the child. Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the spouse. Love is kind, though harried and tired. Love does not envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens. 
Love does not yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
 
Love does not give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who cannot. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.
 
Toys will break, necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust; but giving the gift of love will endure.
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Christmas without Christ and his love is simply another holiday or break or time off from work. You see, Christmas is a time when love came down.
 
One  day over 2000 years ago, the God of the universe left the glory and the splendor of heaven, a place where there was no pain, no sickness, no accidents, no hurt, and no death. He came to the place where there is hurt, loneliness, pain, tears and death.
 
Yet, he came because of love. But it was not a soft, warm fuzzy love that came down that night. This was a heart-wrenching, full bore agape love.
 
As it says in the song, What Wondrous Love is This: Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.  
 
In coming down, Jesus didn’t simply bring the good news of God.  Rather, he IS the good news. And the good news is this: That through Jesus you are forgiven. FOR unto us a son is GIVEN. FORGIVEN. Through his life and then his death on the cross, EVERYONE who puts their faith in him and him alone, are forgiven.
 
This is the love that came down for us. For you.
 
And if you let that sink in, but really sink in, you will have the greatest warmth of gratitude and joy of any Christmas you’ve ever had.
 
So if someone every asks you to explain Christmas in phrase you can say, “It was a day when love came down.”
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Advent Assurance

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We were driving to our best friends’ house late one evening a long time ago.  They recently had moved several hours away due to a job.  Even though they had given us directions with key landmarks to guide us (this was before GPS or cellphones with apps) I felt very uneasy.  It was dark, snowing and we were in an unfamiliar area of the state.  I could feel my stomach start to tighten – not much but I could feel it.

I asked my wife for the fourth or fifth time, “Honey, are you sure you’re reading the directions right?  Maybe you should take a look one more time at the map.  I think that we should’ve taken a left instead of a right at that last turn.”

She calmly said for the fourth or fifth time, “Quit second guessing yourself.  They gave us the right directions and the map shows that we are on track.  Besides, it always feels like it’s taking longer than it should especially when it’s dark out.  Have some faith.”

Just as I was about the say something I saw our friends’ house around the bend.  We had made it. The lights were on and you could see the whole family inside sitting at the table laughing together.  It was a picture of love.  I let out my breath that I had unconsciously been holding in.

Everything was as it should be.

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Life often feels like an unchartered course and we need assurance from time to time that we are on the right path.  This is the same when it comes to our faith.  We, too, need assurance from time to time.  Our assurance comes from the very word of God who laid out the road map for us.

The birth of Jesus fulfilled multiple prophecies:

From the line of Abraham. (1900–1800 B.C.)

Genesis 22:18  “and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”  The genealogy of Jesus is told in the book of Matthew, which refers to him as “the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

From the line of David  (1010–970 B.C.)

2 Samuel 7:12-13  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.  In Luke 1:32 the angel Gabriel tells Mary, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,”

Born in Bethlehem.  (750–700 B.C)

Micah 5:2  But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

Born of a virgin. (740–700 B.C.)

Isaiah 7:14 Isa 7:14  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

There are over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled regarding his birth, death, resurrection and reign.  The map is well laid out, the directions are clear.  Because of God’s enduring word, we find comfort and assurance.

In Jesus we find a picture of great love.  In him we are home.

Everything is as it was declared to be.

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Advent Joy

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Our daughter was aghast.  Her face was ashen white.  Her eyes wide open in horror.

“How could you?!” she loudly whispered.  Of course, everyone could hear her.

“How could I what?” I laughed.

“How could you dance in the middle of the street?!  Everyone is looking!!” Then with a face that said she was ready to die and with a voice that only a teenage daughter could have she said,  “YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME!!”

I told her, “Listen my dear.  There are times in our lives when you hear such good news that you can’t keep it to yourself.  You have to sing as if no one is listening and dance as if no one is looking.  With the good news that I got today, I  just have to rejoice!”

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Advent is a season of rejoicing.  We rejoice that our Lord and Savior Jesus has come into our lives.  For those who have received Jesus and put their faith in him, we rejoice that the judgement against us is no more.  We are freed from a debt that we cannot pay.   As it says in Zephaniah 3:14-15

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!  The LORD has taken away the judgments against you

Therefore, no matter our circumstance, no matter the aches and pains that we have in life, we still rejoice because of what God has done for us.

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Advent Preparation

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The clock ticked louder than I had ever heard before.  tick.   TICK.  TICK.   I asked my wife, “Did you turn up the volume on the clock?”  I got a very funny look in reply.  I stood up and paced the floor.  Five steps one way; five steps back.  I kept this up until I noticed my spouse’s eyes squinting at me in annoyance. 

Finally, with a loving sigh my wife said, “Don’t worry.  He’ll be here.  Everything is set and we’re as prepared as we can be.  The house is clean, there’s plenty of food in the fridge and clean sheets on the bed. The only thing left to do is to prepare yourself. It’ll be fine.”

“I know,” I said with a lump in my throat.  “It’s just that I love him so and we’ve waited so long for him to come back home.”

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The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.

In Isaiah 40:3 it says

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 

In that spirit we prepare our ourselves to receive our Lord.  We take our time to prepare ourselves for Christ because although the birth of Jesus took place almost 2,000 years ago,  Advent is far more than simply marking an old historical event. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.

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Advent Hope

Message for MaryI looked up at the night sky.  I was alone in a strange country without friends and without a place to call home.  I was hungry and tired but more than anything I was empty.  I felt abandoned by everyone including God.  My life seemed to be without hope. The coldness of the night made me shiver and I clutched my coat around me.  In my pocket I felt the small Bible I carried with me.  It was worn and tattered, kind of like my life right now.  My fingers wrapped around the Bible and then I remembered.  I remembered what God had promised so long ago.

The promise was from Isaiah 9:2  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

I remembered that God has promised to deliver me from a time darkness.  In the midst of darkness God has me promised light.  He has promised me a hope that is an everlasting hope.

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Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, anticipation, preparation and longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and now anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.

Click here to listen to the message: Advent Hope