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Advent Devotional

Dec. 20 - Dec. 25

If there is one word that Christians know can be found in the Bible – it is the word love. God is love. We are to love God and love our neighbor. Love is patient. Love is kind. There is a whole book in the Old Testament dedicated to love (Song of Solomon). We know love. Right? Or do we?

All of that is beautiful language, but what exactly do we mean by the word “love”? It’s an unclear word in English because you can love your mom, and you can love pizza. And if the word “love” means the same thing in both of those cases, your mom’s going to feel real bad.

In both Hebrew and Greek, there are many words for love – each with different nuances and shades of meaning. But the most important uses of “love” are demonstrated through action. Love is not primarily a feeling for someone else that happens to you, like our phrase “I fell in love.” No, love is action. It’s a choice that you make to seek the well-being of people other than yourself.

6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 

7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 

8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 

9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

- Deuteronomy 7:6-9 -

There are actually three different Hebrew words used in these few verses for love. What does “love” mean according to these verses? How specifically is it shown?

The Old Testament prophets often reflect on the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of Israel, using the metaphor of marital love and then infidelity.

7 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

8 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior.

9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

- Isaiah 63:7-9 -

After recounting God’s judgment on Israel for their infidelity, how does the prophet say God’s love was demonstrated in the past?

The season of advent is actually the perfect time to consider what God means by the word “love”, because it is in Christ’s coming that we get the clearest picture of what love is, according to the Bible.

How do the following passages define love according to Christ’s first coming?

John 3:16 

Romans 5:6-8 

1 John 4:9

So far we have focused on God’s love for his people. But as we know, God commands that we love in return. In fact, when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he said all of the Law and the Prophets hang on loving God and loving your neighbor.

In 1 John 4:7-21, John circles around all of these issues of God’s love for us, our love for Him and for neighbor, and Christ’s first and second coming. It is nonlinear in its arrangement, but is a beautiful rumination on all of these topics.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 

8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 

10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 

12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 

14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 

16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 

17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 

19 We love because he first loved us. 

20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 

21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

- 1 John 4:7-21 -

Try to rearrange John’s argument in a way that makes sense to you. How do you put together God’s love, our responses of love, and the first and second comings of Christ?

How is what we find in these verses a different picture of love than what we might find in the world? How could this be good news to a world that thinks it understands “love”?

Finally, God’s love not only preserves us from judgment at the second coming, but will also remake us.

1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 

2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

- 1 John 3:1-2 -

How do these verses create a longing for the second coming in you? What is your response to this hope?

This advent season we’ve looked at four interrelated topics of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Suppose a non-christian friend asked you about a bumper sticker they saw, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Having done these studies, how might you use the Advent themes to share the good news of Christ? (They might be a skeptic, they might be antagonistic, they might be genuinely curious – you decide – how would you respond?)