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Advent 2016

love came down || advent 2016

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love came down || advent 2016

Truly he taught us to love one another;

His law is love, and his gospel is peace.

Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,

and in his name all oppression shall cease.

 

When I was growing up, my family had a tradition of reading the Christmas narrative every night on the week leading up to Christmas. Every family member got a turn in having their night to read—on your night, you could read any gospel account, in whatever translation you chose, however you wanted. When we were little, my brothers and I loved to act out the nativity story, while one of us narrated. Often towels tied around heads to emulate shepherds wasn’t elaborate enough for our performances, so we got more creative with our costumes, from taping cotton balls to faces of “sheep,” to (to my mama’s delight) lugging dead leaves from the yard into the living room to substitute “hay” for our “stable” scene. These sweet memories will always be special to me, but sticking out even clearer, is how, when it was my mom’s turn to read the Christmas story, she would always begin with the famous words: “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The way my mom always preluded the nativity story with John 3:16 left a formative impression on me. It turned the meaning of Christmas into something personal—something powerful and life-changing. God looked upon a broken world, full of broken people, and instead of being filled with anger, was filled with a fierce, action-inciting love. The Lord, in deep compassion and mercy, sent One to show the world a new law; a new covenant. And in the midst of severe political and religious upheaval, in the form of a poor little Jewish baby boy, Love became incarnate, and the stage was set for the world to be introduced to God’s new law: a law of love and a gospel of peace.  

Our world today is not much different from the world God sent his only begotten son to save. Just like the days of the baby in the manger, we live in a world filled with chaos, with strife, with division, with war, with racism and hate. We are still a broken people, falling short in our love for one another. Our world desperately needs the Love that took on flesh to dwell among us just as much this Christmas as we did 2,000 years ago. 

 

This is the meaning of Christmas: that God so loved
 

Friend, we are so loved. In spite of our sin; in spite of our hate. In spite of the fact that we are still a people wrought with anger, brokenness, and burden. We have been hurt and abused and then, in turn, lash out at one another, hurting and abusing our brothers and sisters. God sees our wounded, wounding ways, and sends Love-in-the-flesh directly into our messed-up midst.  

LOVE IS HERE, CHURCH. Love came down! Love took on flesh, became human, walked among us, and showed us a new law—and beckons us to put on new clothes of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And our sweet savior, Love himself, invites us to join this movement, and take part in the work of this new law, this new covenant, and actively spread this sweet, liberating gospel of peace.

 

Let's ask ourselves this week, as we celebrate Love in the flesh, how we can be apart of living out God’s law of love. How can you spread a gospel of peace in your sphere of influence?

 


 

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a hope that overcomes || advent 2016

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a hope that overcomes || advent 2016

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

'til he appeared and the soul felt it's worth.

A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices

for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

 

Passage: Matthew 11:28-30

Everywhere around us, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season has completely taken over. From Starbucks’ Chestnut Praline lattes, to the emergence of every imaginable Christmas decoration lining the aisles of Hobby Lobby, to the awed little children, standing in line to meet Santa at the Abilene Mall, or all of the twinkling lights on the houses, sparkling in the early twilight of these first December nights.

I’m notoriously an all-out lover of Christmastime. It’s—hands down—my absolute favorite time of year—I love everything about it. I love the traditions, the shopping, the spice-flavored hot drinks, the parties, the quiet moments with family snuggled under blankets watching old, classic Christmas movies. I love the fires, the caroling, the crisp air, the planning, the giving of gifts (ok, and the receiving, who am I kidding), and the general spirit of good cheer.

But for many people, Christmas is a time when all the pain and loss that has dominated their lives becomes a time when the wounds sting noticeably more. Often times, the holiday season, for those who are hurting, lonely, or grieving is a season when the weight of their wounds becomes even harder to bear than usual. I think the reason that grieving people hurt more during the holidays is because, in our culture, it is a time that is supposed to be full of relationship and community, and when we’re missing that in some way, it’s impossible to ignore.

I remember the first Christmas after my dad left. My mom tried her best to make everything as normal as possible and keep all of our family’s beloved holiday traditions in tact as best as she could, but his absence left a big, throbbing hole in our home. The reality of being abandoned stayed right next to me, and pulled for my attention with every sighting of a little girl and her dad, shopping for presents in a department store. When I looked outside at the neighbors across the street, to see a father and his kids hauling their Christmas tree inside, my heart ached. And when I saw men standing amidst their families, worshipping during Advent Sundays, my stomach tied in knots.

But in the middle of the hurt, the anxiety, and the fear that I would never be truly okay again—that my family would never be okay—Jesus met me. Right there. Right in the hurt, in the midst of the fear. He met me in the form of the Word, in my mom, in my brothers—and in the feeling of hope that slowly began to creep its way into my heart. For me, the presence of God was thick that Christmas.

Friend, that’s why Jesus came. That is the powerful, redeeming hope of Christmas: that God came down and took on flesh to dwell among us—to walk with us, to live as we live, and to be present with us in our brokenness and fear. This is a season that’s all about taking time to be still, reflect, and rest in the presence of a God who cares enough about our wounds and our brokenness to get right in the thick of it, take it on, and carry us through.

Are you weary or lonely? Does Christmas pull at tender scabs for you? Jesus is near, my friend. Seek him, and rest in the hope of his presence. 

 


*this devotional is part of an Advent devotional collaboration, written by women of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church. For the full online booklet, go to pioneer drive.org/advent

 

 

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