2nd Sunday of Advent
God of Glory, Lord of Love
December 4, 2016
Valley View Bible Church
I am convinced that with every Christmas that comes and goes, the importance of Advent increases. We have allowed the world to rush us towards
Christmas and in doing so, we forget or misplace the significance of Christmas. Advent is intended to slow us down. It asks that we stop to consider the spiritual significance of the day which celebrates what we refer to as the Incarnation. That Jesus has come in carnis, in the flesh. He is “word become flesh” (John 1:14). Advent asks that we meditate on the reality that Jesus “came down from heaven,” not to do his own will but the will of the one who sent him (John 6:38). Advent asks that we think about something more than the giving of gifts, more than the decorations, and more than the festive atmosphere of the season. Here is why Advent is important.
Christmas has become a civil holiday. We may get upset when someone says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas but as it is celebrated in our society, it has more to do with the giving and receiving of gifts than a celebration of the birth of Jesus. An increasing number of non-Christians celebrate whether it is Christmas, Xmas, or simply a Holiday. Pew Research Center found that 81% of non-Christians in the United States celebrate Christmas. They also found that 76% of Asian-American Buddhists, 73% of Hindus celebrate Christmas. In addition, a recent survey of U.S. Jews found that about a third (32%) had a Christmas tree in their home last year. Christmas plays a significant role in our secular American society.
It has become the largest economic stimulus in our nation and around the world as sales increase dramatically in almost all retail areas. In 2013 the United States retail industry generated over three trillion U.S. dollars during the holiday season and it has increased every year since. This is the motivation for Christmas decorations appearing in shopping malls before Halloween. A hotel in England had a Christmas tree up 75 days before
Christmas. This is why we hear 24 hour Christmas music on radio stations as early as November 15th. The world rushes towards Christmas and when we are not careful, we are carried along in the rush. Advent asks that we slow down and consider. What does the birth of Christ mean? What role does it play?
Christmas plays an important role in our church culture. The church however was slow to embrace Christmas. It never occurred to them to celebrate Christ’s birthday. We find little or nothing about “Christmas” until the fourth century. The earliest record of Christmas in the church is in a letter from a nun who wrote home and referred to her baptism as being on the eve of her Lord’s birth. Athanasius, a fourth century church leader wrote: “It is important to celebrate the birth of Christ because we would never have the death and resurrection without the incarnation.” Constantine, a fourth century emperor of Rome, would formalize the celebration when he set December 25th as the date to honor the birth of Christ. Some Christian groups protest the accuracy of this date without understanding Constantine’s motivation. After his acceptance of Christianity, perhaps influenced by his Christian mother (Helena), he set out to sanctify the pagan Roman Festivals that fell on or around that date.
Saturnalia – Roman festival of deity, Saturn
Sigillaria – A festival of Images on the last day of Saturnalia
Brumalia – a solstice celebration
His idea was to take those things that were common and unholy and make them holy. I like this idea because it coincides with Christ’s purpose to redeem and restore. We may not know how pure his intentions were, but he sought to instill Christ into the holidays. When you think about this, it makes sense. That is why we are here. To redeem the lost and to reconcile humans to their creator. When we focus on Jesus, we see the trappings of this “civil holiday” though different eyes. Just as Jesus came to save and not condemn, let us approach this season with our eyes on the one who was born to save and redeem.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Advent helps us discover the depth of God’s Love
Lamentations eloquently describes the pain and suffering of God’s people Within the context of that suffering, it affirms the truth that hope can only come from God. The very nature of that hope is God’s love. “Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed.”Dr. James Graham 3 Valley View Bible Church During Advent, we reflect on the love of God as it is revealed in the birth of Christ. The birth of Christ happens because of God’s love. It is filled with the love of God for all humankind. This is what Christmas is about. It is a celebration of God’s love.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Glory and Love
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” is one of the great hymns of the church. It was written by Henry Van Dyke in 1907 and set to Beethoven’s 9th sympathy. Van Dyke described the poem this way: “These verses are simple expressions of common Christian feelings and desires in this present time—hymns of today that may be sung together by people who know the thought of the age, and are not afraid that any truth of science will destroy religion, or any revolution on earth overthrow the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, this is a hymn of trust and joy and hope.”
The song begins with these words.
“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of Love: hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above, melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!”
This is the message that will fill the needs of our world. This is the message that will heal the hurts of our world. This is the message that answers the questions of our world. During Advent we realize the importance of the Jesus message and reclaim the urgency that comes with the gospel Contrast the glory and love in this great hymn with what we find in human history. While attractive and with some benefits, it will always be wrapped in the temporary nature of mortality. Human knowledge is fleeting. Our heroes are flawed.
Our God is the “Father of Glory” and the “Lord of Glory.” Glory is identified with the splendor of God’s appearance. It is God’s glory that brings hope, produces light in darkness, and brings us peace. When God reveals Himself, it is with splendor, power, radiance, holiness, truth, and perfection. He is the “King of Glory.”
Psalm 24:7–10 (NRSV)
Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.
And here is the good news. That King of glory is present, revealed, and found in the baby that was born in Bethlehem. That is what the shepherds in the Christmas story heard the angels singing at the birth of Jesus. “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). And yet, we fill our lives with the imitation glory provided by our world. Even during a season that is all about the coming of the King of Glory. John Piper gives his take on the reason.
“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.” John Piper, A Hunger For God Advent asks us to slow down and reconsider. Are we nibbling so much from the worldly traditions of Christmas that we have become so stuffed so there is no room for the true purpose revealed in the birth of Christ? The King of Glory is wrapped in love. As we recognize Christ, the splendor of God, we also recognize God’s love. Why? Because God is love. Love is not merely an attribute of God, it is his very nature. God is not only loving, he is fundamentally love. God alone loves in the completeness and perfection of love. Jesus is the “reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” (Hebrews 1:3).
As we consider the purity of that love, our attitude towards others begins to change and we begin to love one another. You cannot stand close to perfect love without becoming more loving. Advent calls us to stand close. From my perspective, there has never been a time when our nation needs the healing power of perfect love. And perfect love comes only from the Father through the Son who was born in Bethlehem.
1 John 4:7–12
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 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 oneDr. James Graham 5 Valley View Bible Church another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Consider Christianity is a religion of love because Jesus reveals God to be perfect love. As we grow in our faith, we grow in love. As this happens:
1. We show love by our obedience – John 14:15; II John 6
2. We show love by loving other Christians – John 13:34,35
3. We show love by loving those who are not Christians, even our enemies
Matthew 5:43-48; Matthew 25:34-40
Advent is a time to consider. How have I been changed because of God’s perfect love? In what ways does that love still seek to change me? Advent is a time to be loved and to love. How can I love those I know and those I have yet to meet? Being a Christian is a time to listen to the stories of those we meet. Advent is a time to participate in the journey together. Advent is a time of discovery. Advent is a time to love.