Advent – Love
Hello everyone! My name is Kerry and I have the privilege of speaking to you this morning. For those of you who don’t know me, I am on staff at Festival Church as Operations Manager, and I am part of the Senior Leadership Team of Festival Church.
I am married to Joel, who has been on the team putting together Online Church these past few months. I like baking, reading and all things Disney. I’ve really enjoyed seeing all the Festival Church sites – Chester, Derby, Llandrindod, Prestatyn and Towyn get closer and work together over this past season!
Today is the first Sunday of Advent and we have 4 themes for 4 Sundays: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Our Carol Service on the 20th is all about HOPE, today, we’re looking at LOVE.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without love. In fact, Christmas wouldn’t even exist without God’s love! In John 3:16-17 we read:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through himJohn 3:16-17 NIV
Christmas only happens because God gave his son, Jesus, so that the world could be saved. And doesn’t it feel that we live in a world that needs to be saved today?! I’m not just talking about Covid, or politics, but I’m talking about each and every one of us as individuals.
You see, every human being was created by God – to love and to be loved by Him. But along the way, the entire course of humanity ignored God and we went our own way – it’s what we call “sin”, and it separates us from God, and from the real meaning of life – to love God and to be loved by Him.Every human being was created by God – to love and to be loved by Him. Click To Tweet
God SO loves you, more than you could ever imagine. That’s why he sent Jesus, to save us from that separation, so that we could know God again. Jesus died for our sins, in our place, so that our broken relationship with God could be restored. And he didn’t just stop there – he rose again so that death was conquered – so that every person who believes in Jesus can have eternal life and know God forever, even after our human bodies have passed away.
And that is what we celebrate at Christmas, the birth of Jesus, who came to this world to die, so that we could be saved. And Jesus only came because of God’s love.
As I was thinking about what to speak to you all about today, Joel asked me the question “what does love mean to you?”. I started thinking about what love means to me at this time of the year especially, and how I show love to others. I found that many of those ways also reflected God’s love for us, and so today I’d like to share 4 of those ways with you.
Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas. We prepare for the festive season, we buy gifts for those we love, and we make plans to help us show our love. I’ve already started preparing for Christmas are:
- I got all my decorations out at the start of November – I didn’t but them up then, they only went up yesterday! – I wanted to see what I had and what I needed, we’ve moved house this year as well so it was a case of thinking about where everything we had was going to go, which was fun and I’m excited about that.
- Writing lists of who to buy for, lists of what gifts I’ve already bought – I love buying gifts and thinking about what each person would really like to receive for Christmas!
- I’ve start buying the Christmas food in ready – this week I bought our first can of Christmas Pringles to start the food collection
Around Christmasstime, we have to do some preparations and think ahead to help us do the things that show love to those around us.
In the same way, God has already made preparations for us, because he loves us!
We even read in Psalm 139 that God prepared for us before we were even born:
For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from You
when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began. Psalm 139: 13-16 NIV
God has a fantastic plan for each and every one of us, and his plan is the best plan – because he loves us!God has a fantastic plan for each and every one of us, and his plan is the best plan – because he loves us! Click To Tweet
We also read in this Psalm what our response to God is, and how we can prepare our hearts for him:
I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14 NIV
Praise prepares us for God. Let’s make a practice of praising God – for who he is, for what he has done and for what he has given us.
This past Thursday, Americans all over the world celebrated thanksgiving. Aside from the historical day that it represents and that they celebrate, I think it’s great that thanksgiving is always just before advent – that giving thanks is the start of the preparation for Christmas.
Today, let’s make sure we prepare:
- Let’s prepare to show love to those around us
- Let’s remember and thank God for how he loves us, and how he prepared a plan and a wonderful life for us
- Let’s praise God, because praise prepares us for God.
The next thing I thought of when it comes to showing love at Christmas, is my home. I absolutely love making my home look Christmassy, and making it feel welcoming.
This, for me, means rearranging the furniture so that there’s a comfortable space for my guests to sit and a comfortable space for the Christmas tree, it means adding a wreath on my front door to welcome them before they even step into the house, getting some nice Christmas snacks in for them to nibble on while we chat, setting their name at a place setting for dinner with their name. All of this, for me, is about making a space to welcome guests into my home, so that my home can be a place they feel safe, where they have the freedom to just be themselves, a place where guests belong and feel loved.
So my next point is make space to welcome.
And again, this is something that God does for us – Psalm 18:19 says:
He brought me out to a spacious place;
He rescued me because He delighted in me.Psalm 18:19 HCSB
God has prepared a place for us, and he brings us out into that spacious place – what the Psalmist is talking about here is that God gives us freedom – freedom from the sin that holds us back and the sin that keeps us away from him.
Just like I want to make a space in my home for people to feel loved and accepted, and free to be who they are, God wants to do that for us, in our whole lives. He wants to love us, He wants for us to be free from our sin, and for us to know him, exactly as he made us to. Giving someone space gives them freedom.God wants to love us, He wants for us to be free from our sin, and for us to know him, exactly as he made us to. Click To Tweet
As well as making space for the people we love in our lives, we also need to make space for God – we need to let Him in to every area of our lives so that he can give you space and freedom. If we don’t welcome God in, he can’t give us that freedom.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
Making space for Jesus and welcoming him into our lives is where the change really begins – it’s from Jesus than we learn to live freely, in that freedom-space he gives us, and to live lightly, not weighed down or tired out by the burdens of the world.
So, firstly we need to prepare but we also need to Make Space – make space to show love for others, makes space for Jesus in our lives, and to remember that the freedom and space we were made for comes from God.
Christmas is likely to look quite different for a lot of us this year, with the big question being “will I get to see my family?”
For me, a big part of Christmas is being with our families – that usually looks like Christmas Day with one of our parents and spending the couple of days after Christmas visiting the other families and family members.
At Christmas, we want to be with the people we love. And it’s no different for God – he wants to be with you, at Christmas and every other day of the year.
In Isaiah 7:14, we are told that one of the names of Jesus will be Immanuel, which means “God with us”. God does not want to be a distant concept or something we only think about at Christmas and Easter – he loves us! And just like we want to be together with those we love, he wants to be with us.
This is perfectly summed up in Acts 17, from the Message translation.
Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! Acts 17:26-27 MSG
And lastly, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without presents!
As Festival Church we have decided that we want to bless our neighbours this Christmas and we have put a plan in place so that every neighbour of our physical churh buildings will get a selection box and a hand written Christmas card that will invite them to our carol service on the 20th. I would recommend that you get involved in this as well, we’ve got loads of extra Christmas cards so that you can buy a gift and give a card to your neighbours.
I absolutely love giving gifts. If you’ve heard of the 5 Love Languages – one of my main love languages is gifts. That basically means that the way I show my love and the way that I feel loved, one of those ways is by giving and receiving gifts. I also feel loved when others give gifts to me. You see, Christmas presents are no fun if the person you give them to doesn’t accept them.
We show our love to others at Christmas by getting them gifts, and, again, God shows his love for us in the same way, but we can’t experience this unless we accept, or receive the gift that God offers.
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 HCSB
Grace and the love that God gives us is a gift from God, but needs to be received by faith.Grace and the love that God gives us is a gift from God, but needs to be received by faith. Click To Tweet
God is offering us a wonderful gift – grace. Grace is that God wants to be with us, He loves us and Jesus died for us, even though we ignored him and were separated from him.
God is standing and extending that gift out to us. He’s prepared it, long ago, before you were born. He got the space ready for you – freedom is waiting. He wants to be with you, at Christmas and always, and today, he is just waiting for you to receive that gift, for you to reach out and accept it from Him. The verse we just read says that it “needs to be received by faith”.
It brings me back to the verse we read at the start:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NIV
To receive that gift of love that God has for you is simple, you need to believe in Jesus, to reach out and accept that gift of love that he offered by dying on the cross to take away our sins, and to know God.
I would like to ask you now to do something that I know many of you have been trying so hard not to do over these past few months. I’d like you to think about someone you love, who you have not been able to see because of Covid.
It’s uncomfortable thing I know, it actually even hurts. It is such a wrench, deep in our hearts, to not know when we can see that person next, it might even bring us close to tears. How long has it been since you saw that person? 8 months? 9? It seems like forever doesn’t it?
Do you know, what you feel when you think of that person, how much you miss them, how much you long to be with them, how you’re counting the days, God feels for every single person on this earth. Except God hasn’t just been waiting 8 months – he has been waiting for eternity, since the beginning of time, before you were even born, to meet you.God hasn’t just been waiting 8 months – he has been waiting for eternity, since the beginning of time, before you were even born, to meet you. Click To Tweet
He wants to know you. He wants to love you. A million times more than you long to see the people that you are missing, God longs to be with you!
And all we need to do is accept the gift he is offering – to accept his love.
So, if you are someone who already knows Jesus today, you’ve already accepted that gift, why not start the Christmas season in preparation – by praising him for everything he has done. Praise him for the plan he has for your life, praise him for the freedom he has brought you into, praise him for being close to you always, and praise him for the amazing gift of love that he has given to you.
And if you’re someone today who hasn’t said yes to Jesus yet, if you’ve not accepted that gift that he is offering to you, I would encourage you – receive that gift today. Know that he already knows you, he knew you and who you were going to be before you were even conceived, and he wants you to know him. He has a spacious place – a life of freedom waiting for you. He is longing to lavish his love on you more than you could ever imagine – he’s done with the separation, he wants you to know him, and to accept the gift of love that he is offering.
So if that is you today, I would love to help you pray a prayer for you to let Jesus know that you want to accept everything he is offering you. I’m going to pray, and I’d love it if you would repeat it after me:
Dear Lord Jesus
I know that I am a sinner,
That I have lived my life away from you.
Today, I ask for your forgiveness.
I believe that you died for my sins and rose from the dead.
I turn from my sins
And invite you into my heart and life
I accept the gift of love that you have offered me.
I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Saviour.
Thank you Jesus
If you prayed that prayer today, we would absolutely love to hear from you.
Fill in this form to let us know that you’ve committed your life to Jesus, and so that we can get in touch with you, to let you know what your next steps in this amazing life of following Jesus can be. We also have a gift that we’d love to send you to help you on your journey, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a gift would it?
God loves you! He prepared for you long ago, he makes a space of freedom for you. He wants to be with you, and he wants you to receive his gift of love today.