The Third Week of Advent

In Advent we remember that God's unwavering love for us is so strong that he sent Jesus to come and be Emmanuel, God with us.

Our pastors have written short devotions for the season of Advent, designed for you to read on your own or share with your family. There are four devotions each week that are posted to this blog and also shared through our Advent, Lent & Holy Week Devotions email list. You can subscribe if you want to be sure you don't miss them!  

 
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The Third Week of Advent

 

DAY 1: DEUTERONOMY 7:6–9

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

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

 

Can we have the love of God without the judgement of God? Preacher JC Ryle once wrote: “beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who is a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none.”

These are sobering yet vital words when we consider God’s love. His love is not mere sentimentality. While we may want to separate the love and holiness of God, Scripture never does. (e.g. Deut. 7.1-5, 6-9).

As we celebrate Jesus’ first coming, this passage reminds us that we are “holy” and “chosen” (v.6). These are not sentimental words but costly ones. To become holy and chosen came at a price—namely, Jesus bearing the holy judgement of God.

At the cross, God’s justice and holiness were on display alongside His love and mercy. That is the costly love God has for us. A love that was willing to die for flawed, unlovable people (v.7). A love that would transform us into His treasured possession.


FOR REFLECTION

How does the image of God’s justice and holiness make you appreciate the love of God? Consider the difference between sentimental love and costly love.

— Daniel Nealon


DAY 2: JOHN 15:12–17

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
 

“In and because of Jesus, you have inherent value.” This is the one phrase I’ve needed to hear over and over to truly and experientially grasp Jesus’ love for me.

We instinctively know what love is from early on.  At the same time, we know the ongoing struggle to receive and express love in healthy, biblical ways. In this passage, Jesus boils it down to one phrase: “that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Said another way: “put your life on the line for your friends.”

We’re not just called to be ready to die for others, but actually to live for them and put our life, our reputation, our security, and our identity on the line for others.

In order to be accepted, we work our entire lives to secure a reputation and build an identity. So if love is putting that all on the line for the sake of someone else, do we really want to love? Jesus did. He gave up reputation and security in order to identify with us. He laid down His privileges for our benefit. May we know and experience his love for us this Advent that we may grow in putting our lives on the line to love others.


FOR REFLECTION

Underneath it all, what one phrase would you need to hear from Jesus to enable you to more and more put your life on the line for others?

— Eric Ashley


DAY 3: I JOHN 4:9–10

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. 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.
 

“Son, go cut that hair, then come back and we’ll talk about Jesus.” This is the grace-less greeting my friend Wade received when he tried to pass by the “guardian deacon” at the front door of a church in Burlington, NC. In essence, the deacon was saying, “Young man, go get cleaned up first, then you’ll be a fine candidate for the love of God.”

What a contradiction to the gospel of God’s grace. What an insult to the Spirit of Advent. Fortunately, God’s love was more compelling to Wade than the legalism of a particular deacon.

During Advent, we celebrate the incarnation of God’s love for us in Jesus. Jesus came to give us life, not a second chance; to give salvation for sinners, not coaching for the capable. We get ready for Jesus, not by “cleaning up,” but by getting low.     

Grace flows downhill. The only “cleaning up” we need comes to us freely through the sacrifice Jesus made for us. As a result, we love God, not to get love, but because he has lavished his unwavering love on us in Jesus.


FOR REFLECTION

Earlier in his letter, John called believers to ponder the great love God poured out on us in Jesus (1 John 3:1-3). Spend some time this week, doing exactly that. Make a distraction-free zone and spend some unhurried time beholding the great love of God that comes to us via the first Advent of Jesus. Slowly meditate your way through 1 John 3:1-3.

— Scotty Smith


WEEKEND: ISAIAH 9:2–7

The people walking in darkness
      have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
      a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
      and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
      as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
      when dividing the plunder.
 For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
      you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
      the bar across their shoulders,
      the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
        and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
      will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
      to us a son is given,
      and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
      Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
      Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
      there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
      and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
      with justice and righteousness
      from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
      will accomplish this.

 

Names matter. Certainly, the one on our birth certificate, but also the other names people give us. Some of those “extra” names are endearing. My granddaddy, on my mom’s side, used to call me “Chuffy.” Why? I have no earthly idea, but I knew he only meant kindness. Jimmy, one of my dad’s business associates, nicknamed me “Meatball,” reflective of my portly stature as a preteen. I wasn’t offended when Jimmy first called me Meatball, because he was someone I trusted and enjoyed.

But when I moved through puberty and became conscious of my body and the possibility of dating, I was ready for a new name—one I would earn through diet and exercise.  “Skinny-Scotty” worked well for a while, until I came to rest in my favorite all-time-name: “Beloved.” This name Jesus gave me when he became my Savior and my righteousness. Indeed, names matter.

Six hundred years before the Messiah’s birth, Isaiah gave us four special names that Jesus, as God’s Messiah, came to fulfill. Names matter—especially Jesus’ names. 

Wonderful Counselor: Jesus is the incarnation and personification of the wisdom of God. The better we know him, the more we are filled with wonder.

Mighty God: Jesus is eternally the second member of the Trinity, sharing full deity with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Everlasting Father: Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. By trusting in his life, death, and resurrection, we are adopted into God’s family, and are privileged to call God, “Abba, Father.”

Prince of Peace: There is no peace like peace with God—the peace Jesus secured for us by his finished work.

Truly, Jesus is God with us, and God for us.


FOR REFLECTION

What other names of Jesus do you treasure? What are some of the unhelpful names other people have given you (or you have given yourself)? How has knowing Jesus challenged and changed these?

— Scotty Smith

West End Community Church