Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Love

It's the third Sunday of Advent, and so tonight at Walnut Hill's 6:30 service, we lit the third Advent candle. I am slightly confused, as I thought that the third Sunday was supposed to be about joy--but no matter. Tonight we lit the candle representing love, and Clay preached on "Loving Fully."

The Advent candle for love reminds us that God's love isn't stingy--it holds nothing back. So, too, should our love overflow in generosity.

I was particularly challenged by Clay's exposition of Philippians 2:3-8. He asked us to think about what each of us tries to grasp. I know for me, those things at which I grasp become such idols in my life, competing with my love for Christ and others. Grasping keeps me from loving fully.

But what does it mean to imitate that selfless, un-grasping love modeled for us in Christ? In an essay in Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, J.I. Packer indicts Christians (and I am so guilty of this!) who misunderstand the point that Love has come:

"We talk glibly of the 'Christmas spirit,' rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis...It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas."

He continues: "Nor is it the spirit of those Christians--alas, they are many--whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the sub-middle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves. The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob."

Am I the only one totally convicted by that? So much of the time I'm more concerned with decorating my house and buying presents for family and making sure I have the right holiday ensemble to wear to all of the Christmas parties than I am with giving generously to those in need. I am a Christian snob, for sure.

Thankfully, as tonight's Advent Scriptures remind us, we find in the Incarnation a remedy for our snobbery and our grasping. King David writes, "Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion" (Psalm 103:2-4).

Praying that the crown of love and compassion might come to be the mark my life!

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9


The Bensons said...

Thanks for your writing. I was looking for something to discuss with my middle school girls' Sunday School class. This might just work!

Chelsea said...

Dear Bensons,

I share your frustration--it is really tough to find good Advent-related Bible study material for youth! I have shared several thoughts from the book I mentioned with some of my high school girls, and it's very adaptable. In the future, I'll be looking to write something tailored for student ministry--it just seems amiss that there's not more out there!

Thanks for commenting, and Godspeed in your lesson this weekend,