I think I almost love the weeks before Christmas more than I love Christmas day itself. There is something so so special about this time of year. It’s that quiet holy feeling amidst the twinkling trees and presents and decorations. It’s the beauty of Christmas music and waiting for the first snowfall! But mostly it’s the feeling of love and hope that overwhelms me this time of year! It’s seeing God’s love in this world and the hope of what I know is to come!
But how can there be hope and love in a world that looks like doom and gloom? Let’s talk about biblical love and hope this Advent season.
Advent means “coming”. We celebrate Advent the four weeks before Christmas and ponder Jesus’ first coming to earth as a baby and also anticipate His second coming to earth to rule and reign. Each week a candle is lit to represent HOPE, LOVE, JOY, and PEACE.
Each of these holy gifts is to be pondered with respect to the advent of Jesus the Christ! It is a wonderful way to prepare our hearts for the day we celebrate His birth.
The first week’s candle is lit symbolizing hope. But, many people might ask, “What is there to hope for in a world that seems to have gone mad”?
In an ancient time, a nation called Israel was in quite a mess as well. They had been a great and thriving nation. But because of their disobedience to God, their beloved land had been divided by civil war and both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom had been captured by two great and terrible nations.
Most of the Israelites were torn from the land they loved and placed in other countries. Their sacred temple was torn down and they became slaves again to kingdoms that did not know or honor the one true God.
The Southern Kingdom Judah was laid to waste and many of its people were in exile. Times were worse than bad.
God had warned them for almost 150 years, sending prophets after prophet to tell the people to repent (turn back to Him) or judgment would come. But history shows us the people did not repent and listen to God. Instead, they kept on turning away from God and His Law. Judgment was as certain as it had already happened.
But God, in His great love and compassion sent an amazing prophecy in the midst of Judah’s abject disobedience:
FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN, A SON IS GIVEN, AND THE GOVERNMENT WILL REST UPON HIS SHOULDERS. AND HE SHALL BE CALLED WONDERFUL CONSOLER, MIGHTLY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE.
OF THE GREATNESS AND GOVERNMENT OF PEACE THERE WILL BE NO END. HE WILL REIGN ON DAVID’S THRONE AND OVER HIS KINGDOM, ESTABLISHING AND UPHOLDING IT WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM THAT TIME ON AND FOREVER. THE ZEAL OF THE LORD ALMIGHTY WILL ACCOMPLISH THIS. Isaiah 9:6-7.
When things were bad, devastatingly bad, for the nation Israel, God in His great love gave the nation hope. Yes, they would be judged and times would be desperate, but God would not let the nation perish. For God promised that one day he would send His Son from heaven in the form of a human baby and He would save His people and the rest of the world. And that Savior was and is Jesus.
And someday, even though things on earth look bleak, that same Son will come back as a great conquering king to rule and reign over this world fulfilling the rest of Isaiah’s prophesy.
So we celebrate the HOPE of Christmas today. As a Christian, I celebrate the hope that someday I will be united with Jesus and live with Him forever, just as He promised.
My favorite verse of promise (and just one of many on this subject) is John 14: 1-3
DO NOT LET YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED. BELIEVE IN GOD, BELIEVE ALSO IN ME. IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE THERE ARE MANY MANSIONS. IF IT WERE NOT TRUE WOULD I HAVE TOLD YOU THAT I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU? AND IF (this is a 3rd condition “if” that means “count on it”) I GO AND PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU I WILL COME AGAIN AND TAKE YOU TO MYSELF SO WHERE I AM YOU WILL BE ALSO.
My hope is not a hope of maybe things will happen. It is a hope that is as certain as if it already did! This is the Christmas hope we celebrate.
God is a God of hope! He is a promise keeper! We can be sure that what He says WILL happen. He has the power to make every world He says come into being! And He WILL do it!
My hope is not placed on what I believe, but WHO I believe in! And what a hope I have!
This is why I can see hope and love in the world today. This is why I am not shaken! No conditions of the world can change my hopeful condition! I know Who I belong to and where I am going!
I am firmly and forever safe in the palm of my Savior’s nail-pierced hands! Amen and amen!
Now, let’s turn our attention to love. I think the love of this season is beautifully summed up in one of the most familiar scriptures in all of the Bible…
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHO BELIEVES ON HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH BUT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE. John 3:16
It is not the love the world knows. That love is conditional and self-centered. This is a Godly sacrificial love! A love driven from the very core of the character of God. A love that is so great that it desires ALL people to return to Him and be intimate with Him.
No matter how grave your sin or what your condition God wants to bend down from heaven and scoop you up into His all LOVING arms. He sent His Son Jesus to live and then to die for your sins. Jesus’ outstretched arms on the cross became the bridge between you and God!
And what is the price you must pay for Jesus’ great sacrificial gift of love?
Nothing! It is a free gift. Just believe. Truly believe. A belief that acknowledges your sin against your loving God! A belief that bows the knee and acknowledges Jesus as your LORD. Your creator and your owner your master. And a belief that drives you the rest of your life to follow Him because it is the only plausible thing you can do when you realize what Jesus, the Christ, has done for you! It is a love affair for all eternity!
1 John 4:16 says:
GOD IS LOVE
It is His character.
1 John expands on this…
BY THIS THE LOVE OF GOD IS MANIFESTED (visually shown forth) IN US, THAT GOD SENT HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON INTO THE WORLD THAT WE MIGHT LIVE THROUGH HIM. IN THIS IS LOVE, NOT THAT WE LOVED HIM (we were in sin and God was our enemy), BUT THAT HE LOVED US AND SENT HIS SON TO BE A PROPITIATION (a sacrifice… to die in our place to satisfy our sin debt) FOR OUR SINS. 1 John 4:9-10.
This is the love of Christmas. Not a romantic love or a love between people or nations, but the perfect love of God for us! This is the love we ponder during Advent.
Hope and Love. Ideas that are familiar to us, yet during Christmas when we really dig down and learn about their true roots and meaning we can look at the world with different eyes. Hopeful eyes filled with love just like our Father.
May the love of God and the true hope in Jesus Christ bless you this Advent season!
This week’s memorization verse:
FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN, A SON IS GIVEN. AND THE GOVERNMENT WILL REST UPON HIS SHOULDERS. HE SHALL BE CALLED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, ETERNAL FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE. Isaiah 9:6.