Texts: Micah 5:2-5, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-55
The opposites of what we celebrate in Advent, and yet the picture of the world that we see today. Despair and hopelessness in people’s hearts, War and aggression everywhere.
Sorrow over our many failures in life and in managing our planet, Hate between nations and religions, people and families.
BUT, it was into this chaos that Christ came, and it is into this chaos that He will return. His mission? As always – Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
These are all intertwined, the inescapable and indescribable intent of God towards a people, created in His image and whom He loves passionately and forever.
We don’t understand it, or at least, we should not understand it for when we catch even a glimpse of the glory of God, our cry must be that of the psalmist – “O what is man, that you are mindful of him?”
And yet, for some amazing reason, God IS mindful of us …
He watches us fumbling in the dark, and He gives us light;
He sees our failures, and He brings healing;
He sees our feeble attempts to bring meaning to life and He sends His Son …
Over the past three weeks of the Advent Season we have looked at our hope in Christ, and the peace that He brings and the joy with which He floods our hearts – Today we see His Love – a love in which God so loves the world that He sends His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will have life.
The Bible speaks of three kinds of love, (and there was a fourth kind in the Greek language, “Eros” but that’s not in the Bible). There is Storgè, which means “natural affection”; Phileo, meaning “friendship” and there is Agapé – the self-sacrificial love which God shows us in Jesus.
This last one is the love which we are addressing this morning. It goes beyond affection and friendship. It is the love which Jesus taught and to which He calls us. It is a love which is unselfish because it takes the love that we have for ourselves and transfers it to others without any bias or preference.
It is a love which commits us to love not only ourselves, not only our friends, but also our enemies. It is a love which we do not know and cannot understand until we encounter the reality of Jesus in our life. It is, sadly, a love which we lose easily even when we have walked with Jesus.
In writing to the church in Ephesus in the Revelation, Jesus holds against them the fact that they had lost their first, or primary, love. They had lost their agape love.
It is this love which Jesus came to renew in us. And for which He prayed in John 17. And for which He sent the Holy Spirit.
It is this powerful love which Jesus reveals in incarnation, in His death at Calvary, which launches the victory of resurrection on Easter morning, and which is contained in His promise to come again in order to bring us to a promised land – not just across the Jordan, but in a new heaven and a new earth in the glory of His Kingdom come.
From ancient times, says the prophet Micah; from ancient times, from the beginning, it has been ordained, that out of Bethlehem, the least among the clans of Judah would come one who would be ruler over Israel. He would stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord and in the majesty of God’s name.
He would bring peace and security into strife and travail – His greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
And it is in the fulfillment of this promise that the Father sends the Son. A promise of God’s love, radically declared, and powerfully revealed.
Mary, the one chosen to bear the Christ Child into creation said that His mercy will extend to those who fear Him; That He will lift up the humble, That He will fill the hungry with good things ….
This is the promised love of our Christ and God. Can you imagine what deep passion God has for us, that He would not only leave the realms of glory, to enter into His creation, but He would come to die at the very hands of those He came to save.
And don’t dismiss Christ’s death as the result of Roman soldiers and jealous Jews – it was us, you and I, who brought about His death. The Bible tells us that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. Romans 5:8
It was for sin that Christ died. It was to pay the penalty of every trespass that He lay down His life.
He did not come to make a sacrifice…
The laying down of His life at the hands of soldiers, the giving up of His last breath as He hung on the Cross, was not simply an offering to buy life for us.
This was obedience to the Father’s Will.
When Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. Here I am, I have come to do your will.”
I have come to lay down that body for the remission of sin. It’s this love, you see. A love that looks not to self, but to others. The Father’s love meant a desire to be obedient to His will, the love for His creation lead to death on a Cross.
Neither obedience, nor love, was withheld. And by that loving sacrifice, we are made holy. Set apart. Powerful love was given, and powerful love is expected. Christ came in love, in order that we might be made holy.
He will come again to take us to be with Him forever and the only criteria will be whether we have loved one another. For at the last judgment the King shall say, “Whatsoever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
The call from the Cross is for you and I to share cups of water, and crusts of bread with the thirsty and hungry, and our loving heart must be such that we don’t even know that we are doing it – for this is love: not that I seek favour or reward, but only to do the will of Him who came in love and who died that I might have life.
Now you may not know that love, and that life. Or perhaps you have grown cold. Or perhaps you have never known that love at all. You have come here this morning and this is all that we can offer you.
In Christ Jesus, there is a gift for all who seek it. It is the gift of new life and it is wrapped up in His love. If this is what you seek, then I ask that you bow your heads with me this morning as we pray for this life and love to be real in our lives.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace. Today we stand in that place to seek your mercy. Lord, we have tried on our own, and we have struggled. We have time and again, made resolve but have not been able to find that which we have strived. We come to you now, confessing our failure and our need of your amazing love. We affirm that you alone are God, revealed in Christ Jesus come to save sinners. We commit ourselves to walk boldly in your grace. Send forth your Holy Spirit into our hearts that we would be whom you want us to be, that we would love as you want us to love and that we would live as you want us to live.
To the glory of Your Name.