Advent: A Season of Choices
Message: ‘Choose… LOVE’ Text: Various
Introduction: PP: During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. The curfew bell shall not ring tonight!” (Roger Whipp)
- Do you love your spouse like that?
- Do you love your parents like that?
- Do you love your children like that?
- Do you love your neighbor like that?
- Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ like that?
PP: Love… is a word we use… way… too often.
OK, no one says they love the Dallas Cowboys. Becca, get rid of that. PP: That’s better…
I hope we can see that the word love is used in so many ways that it’s easy to lose sight of the impact… of what love truly means.
So this morning, I want to look at just 2 aspects of love: First, Love… from God’s perspective
PP: 1. Love… from God’s perspective
Hosea 1:1–3; 3:1–3; 2:16ff
Steve Buhr writes: Christmas is about one simple thing that made the biggest difference in the lives of people all over the world from one moment in time until now and forever into the future…love.
- Love for you, me, our kids, our families, our neighbors, the people who live across town and the people who live half-way around the world.
- Whose love? God’s love! (end quote)
Christmas is a love story from God. It’s a story of God’s relentless pursuit of those who will be His through faith in Jesus.
- It’s not a love story that speaks of flowers, chocolates and a romantic dinner.
- PP: It’s a love story filled with pain, rejection, and death.
ILL: The story is told of a medieval monk who announced he would be preaching the following Sunday evening on “The Love of God.” As the shadows fell and the light ceased to come in through the cathedral windows, the congregation gathered. In the darkness of the altar, the monk lit a candle and carried it to the crucifix.
- First of all, he illumined the crown of thorns, next, the two wounded hands, then the marks of the spear wound.
In the hush that fell, he blew out the candle and left the chapel.
- There was nothing else to say. (Chris Jordan)
The crown of thorns, the two wounded hands, the marks of the spear wound… all represent the pain, the rejection, the death… Jesus suffered for you.
It’s a love story detailing God’s pursuit of those… who choose not to love Him, who choose to reject Him, who choose to love something, anything else… but Him.
PP: It’s also a story of God’s love that came down to us, to you and to me, in the child in a manger, that first Christmas in Bethlehem.
PP: Next Slide
Those that know God, who are in a relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe through faith in Jesus, know that to be true. We KNOW God loves us.
But.. do we know God loves us
- Like we love our spouse, like we love our children… like we love our neighbors or our favorite sports teams?
All of which… fall under a ‘conditional’ kind of love. And that’s why so many Christians struggle with feelings of unworthiness, of failure, of doubting God’s love for them.
If we’re going to reflect God and His love to others, and I’ll speak on that in a few… we need to have a clear understanding of God’s love for us, those who are followers of Jesus.
So, I want to go to the OT, to the Book of Hosea to briefly show the depths of God’s love for you and me as God’s children through faith in Jesus.
PP: The word of the Lord that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. (Hosea 1:1–3)
OK… probably haven’t heard that often during Advent… When this was written things were going well for Israel; they lived in peace, they were prospering and generally, life was pretty good. But, on the inside, the people were far from God… They no longer loved God nor followed His leading.
- Sounds a lot like today! Even in the church.
The Book of Hosea was written, not as a judgment for the souls of people, but as a love story from God to those who were lost, had chosen to reject Him and His love for them…
Gomer, time and time again leaves Hosea for other men… her unfaithfulness to her husband knows no bounds.
- The book of Hosea depicts God as Hosea who time after time goes after His bride to show His love for her.
- And it shows Gomer as the sinful Israelites who have rejected God and had given their love to anyone and everyone but Him.
PP: And the Lord said to me, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the Lord loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.” So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (Hosea 3:1–3)
Gomer’s persistent and willful sin of adultery, enslaved her, until she no longer could choose to free herself from it. She had to be redeemed, bought, out of her slavery to sinfulness.
- Being redeemed, being bought out from our slavery to sin, our loving the many idols we have placed before God…
- that’s the story of God’s love for us this Advent season.
This is how God promised to give His love:
PP: And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ And I will betroth you to Me forever. I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:16ff)
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In Titus 2:13-14 we read: waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession…
Paul writing to the Ephesian Christians said this: Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might
sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25–27)
Even though we talk about it all the time, do we really comprehend God’s love for us? Perhaps God’s Word will help make this a bit clearer.
- Jesus said: As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. (John 15:9a)
- nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39b)
- God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
- But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, (Ephesians 2:4–5a)
And the blessings of God’s love is this:
- For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:16–17)
- There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
- But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10)
Friends, God’s love is NOT like the kind of love we experience from others. It’s the story of an unconditional love, not based on how good we are, or how spiritual we are.
God’s love story is based on what He has done to redeem us from our enslavement to sin.
- It’s based on Jesus’s death and resurrection.
- It’s based on God’s good pleasure… to love us.
And listen, know this Advent season, that the story of God’s love for you, can erase the struggles you may have with feelings of unworthiness, of failure, and doubt.
This Advent is about one simple truth: it’s the conformation that God loves you… that your life matters to God… And that, is what the Bible is all about.
- That’s love… from God’s perspective.
PP: Next Slide
- Choose Love Colossians 3:12–14
ILL: Steve trail tells the following story: I recently heard a preacher speaking of his efforts to counsel a man who was having marital trouble. He said to the man, “The Bible says husbands love your wives.” “But I do not love her anymore,” he replied. “Then love her as your sister in the Lord.””But I don’t think she is saved,” he said. “Then love her as your neighbor.” He replied that he didn’t have any intention of being her neighbor. Finally the preacher said “Then love her as your enemy!”
Friends, God’s people, choose to love.
ILL: A North Dakota blizzard was howling outside Dr. Thompson’s office one night. About 9:00 the phone rang. A man said, “Doc can you come out to my place? My boy is running a high fever and is unconscious. It’s impossible for us to get in to see you.
Do you think you could make it out to us?” The doctor said, “Tony, I’ll do my best but I never saw a storm this bad where I came from and it sure scares me.”
On his way out of town he stopped at the local bar and asked three men if they would go with him to help shovel. About halfway the men became exhausted because the snow drifts were getting so deep. The doctor left his car with the men and got a farmer to saddle a horse for the rest of the trip out to Tony’s.
The boy was so sick that the doctor knew that if he didn’t get him to a hospital in intensive care soon that he wouldn’t make it. He thought of Ed the County Commissioner. He called him but the commissioner said, “Don’t think I can do anything, but I’ll try.”
At sunrise the doctor got his patient down to the main road, and to his surprise, he found his car running and waiting for him and to learn that the road all the way to town had been cleared.
The doctor called the county commissioner to thank him. “Don’t thank me. I had nothing to do with it.” Surprised the doctor said, “Who did then?”
The commissioner said, “Well, you’ve got to know the people around here to understand what happened.
When they heard you call me on the party line, they knew something must be wrong. They all listened in and every able-bodied man and boy along that road went to work shoveling and plowing snow.
When anybody’s in trouble, we all pitch in to help. We call it “putting love on the line.” (Marilyn Murphee)
Have you ever chosen to ‘put love on the line’ for someone else?
Friends, God’s people, choose to love.
The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Colossae put some flesh on the bare bones of choosing to love.
PP: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12–14)
Christian, how often do you choose to show love to others?
- Do you choose love when someone has been unkind to you?
- Do you choose love when someone has put you down?
- Do you choose to love when someone consistently bothers you?
- Do you choose love when someone confronts you with something you did?
- Do you choose love when someone refuses to forgive you?
In other words, do you choose love when you have been wronged by others?
- Think about it for a brief moment, that’s all you’ll need, when you remember that’s what Jesus chooses every time you sin against Him.
PP: The apostle Paul tells us that choosing to love when we have been wronged is not a feeling we muster up, but an act we do. That’s what put on means in Colossians 3:12. It means to choose to act in a specific way when others have hurt us. What ways:
- Choose compassion. Choose kindness.
- Choose humility. Choose meekness.
- Choose patience.
- Choose to live under the weight of the hardships others bring you.
- Choose forgiveness.
And in order to so all those things…
- PUT ON, choose Love.
Look, Christmas, is… a madness we can easily get caught up in.
- Decorating the house, outside and in, the office, the car, even the dog and cat.
- The mad rush to get presents for everyone. Making sure you spend at least what they spent on you last year.
- Writing and sending Christmas cards to people you hardly ever see.
- Deciding what you will have for your ‘illegal’ Christmas family dinner.
- Cooking an elaborate dinner with more calories than should be eaten in a week.
- Exchanging gifts with others, then taking them back to the store to get what you really wanted.
- Waiting the culturally appropriate amount of time, then taking it all down and putting it away till next year.
It’s exhausting… But.. it’s also what we know.
And in the midst of all the mayhem that Christmas can be, we often fail to choose the very things that Christmas was meant to produce in us through the birth of Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem:
- Compassion, Kindness. Humility. Meekness. Patience. Longsuffering. Forgiveness… Love.
It’s not too late. Ask God to so reveal His love for you, that it’ll inspire you to choose to love as He loves.
- To make love active, a ‘doing’ thing and not just a ‘feeling’ thing.
To choose to risk
- the familiarity of your comfort,
- the security of your finances,
- and your pride in outward appearances
In order to choose to love those whom you might otherwise neglect.
The apostle John commands us: PP: Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
PP: Christian, choose love.
Conclusion: PP: Tom Shepherd challenges us all with this:
- If I get a toaster for Christmas I expect it to make toast.
- If I get a coffee machine I expect it to make coffee.
- If I get a hair brush… I’ll save it for re-gifting.
But the question that needs to be asked is: Is it effective. Does it do what it was intended to do?
So, we began with the amazing truth and blessing it is that God loves us… What is the love of God intended to do?
- CHANGE US!
The apostle John wrote PP: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)
Christian, look, God is not done loving…
- He’s not done loving those who rebel against Him.
- He’s not done loving those who hate him.
- He’s not done loving those who reject Him.
- He’s not done loving the unloveable.
- He’s not done loving those who are lost.
And it’s utterly mind-blowing that He would use Christians; those who struggle, at best, with choosing to accept God’s love and to love God… every day, to BE HIS LOVE… to others.
Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16 said: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Our light shines the brightest, when we choose to love like Jesus loved.
Love… is what sets the church of God apart from everything else.
- Love, when it changes us, gives the church hope.
- Love, when it changes us gives the church joy.
- Love, when it changes us gives the church peace.
- Love, when it changes us gives the church purpose.
When life is hard, challenging, disappointing, like it is now, let CBC be known for how it loves.
- Let’s work together, forgive each other, accept each other, be patient with each other build each other up, hang out, do ‘life’ with each other, help each other carry the heavy loads life throws upon our shoulders.
Instead of following the worlds obsession with self… let’s be the place where love makes CBC a caring, sharing… loving… community.
PP: Next slide