Welcome to the second Sunday of Advent. What an amazing season it is as we journey together toward Christmas. As we began our Advent season last week, we talked a little bit about the word advent,which is a version of a Latin term meaning “coming.”
More than two thousand years ago, a star appeared in the East as a beacon and a guide to the newly arrived Messiah, Jesus. 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. I
As we continue our exploration this morning, let me ask you a few questions and see a show of hands: How many of you are finished with all your Christmas shopping? How many of you haven’t even started? How many of you plan to just skip the whole shopping thing and go straight to the Christmas dinner?
Well, wherever you stand on Christmas gift shopping and giving, Americans spend a lot of money on Christmas. Retail sales from November 2018 through January 2019 were projected to be $1 trillion!
As we do, let me ask you to consider several questions: 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?
Let’s dive deep today into the love of God as we explore a love that caused Him to enter our world through His Son that first Christmas. A love that was present from the creation of the world is enough for each and every one of us and is meant to overflow in our lives.
1. Love from the Start
We often talk about Christmas as the time “when love came down.” We say God’s love entered the world as a baby. And that is all true. But we would be mistaken if we didn’t take a longer view, a view back in time to the beginning of the world.
The history of our world, the story of the Bible, is a love story from the first day of creation. It is the story of God’s love for His people and His plan of redemption to bring us back into relationship with Him.
God is not some distant uncle who suddenly shows up with a gift nobody knows what to do with. Nor is He a cold and miserly distant figure grudgingly offering us an occasional token.
Jesus’s birth was the culmination of a long history of love. And His love for us today, this Advent season, is not something new.
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. God is love. It is His nature and character
As we pursue the journey of love, let me encourage you to simply accept that God’s love for us exists beyond the constraints of time, space, and our limited understanding. It’s a love worth focusing on, meditating on, and basking in during this season of preparation.
2. Love Enough
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? Or that His love is enough to cover the pain or hurt in your own heart?
If we’re honest, I think most all of us would have to answer yes to all those questions, and some of us more than others. Despite what we may know in our heads or believe in our hearts, there is a daily struggle to live in the reality of God’s love for us. It’s so different from our own ability to love.
Let me remind you of some good news this morning—the best news. God. Loves. You. Not because of anything you’ve done or have to do.
God loves you purely, perfectly, wholly, lavishly. You don’t have to earn points to muster up love from God. He pours love out on us—no matter how unlovable or unworthy we may feel. And He pours out love unendingly.
Think of the Christmas story characters. They didn’t fit into the “most lovable people” box. They were a bewildered, young, average, and humble engaged couple, a band of smelly shepherds, a group of foreign mystics.
Where would you fit into the scene on that Bethlehem night so long ago? Where do you find yourself now in this season of long, dark, and cold winter nights? No matter where you are on the journey, God’s love is for you. It is more vast and perfect than you can ever fully and completely grasp this side of heaven—
Maybe that was a little like the prayer the apostle Paul offered for the Ephesians when he wrote,
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, 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” (Ephesians 3:17–19).
God’s love is deep and wide and long and high. And it doesn’t change even if our feelings do. Even when we feel distant from God’s love.
And it will never fail us now as we wait for Jesus’s coming—figuratively through the Advent season and literally until He returns to earth to complete His ultimate work.
3. Love Overflows
Does anyone have company coming this Christmas? Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles? Christmas is such a wonderful time to be together. But here’s the real question—will anyone be sick of their relatives or guests after day three of their visit?
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.
And getting back to those holiday houseguests—sometimes the unlovable are the people closest to us.
They can be the people we truly love most but who also have the most power to drive us crazy, remind us of our weaknesses, and even bring up our deepest pain.
So on a very practical level, this Advent journey of love is about God’s love in us overflowing to others. In reality, that’s not something we can do—or do for long—on our own effort. It must come from the source of love, and it can.
1 John that sums up that connection between God’s love and our love for others:
In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 1John 4:10-12
There is so much that could be unpacked in that passage, but I want us to capture and take away three main things today:
**God is love, and He sent His Son as a sacrifice for us. This was Jesus, God’s love from the start and His gift to each of us.
++We can know and rely on God’s love—God’s love is enough for us today, tomorrow, for always.
++We love because God first loved us. God’s love overflows within and through us to others.
God’s love is truly the whole reason we celebrate this season. Let me encourage you to dwell on it and abide in it throughout Advent. Meditate on it. Read these Scriptures we’ve discussed over and over again, and let their truth wash over and through you.
But let me challenge you as well to walk in God’s love as it penetrates and changes your heart. This journey of love is not simply about words or even the feelings of acceptance—it is also a journey of action and truth.
Advent and Christmas can be an easy season to put this similar love into practice. Yet in many ways, it can be even more difficult. But as we prepare our hearts expectantly and purposefully for our celebration of Christ’s arrival, let us also put into practice His love flowing through us.
Will you allow His love to penetrate and overflow your heart as you abide with the source of all love this Advent season?