Advent Week Four- Love

Opening Prayer:

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear 
Your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to
Your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete
 joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of Your presence.We are Your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light. 
To You we say, ‘Come Lord Jesus!’
Amen. (Joel Mason)

Scripture Reading from the Old Testament: 

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; 
let the many coastlands be glad! 
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; 
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 
Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. 
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, 
before the Lord of all the earth. 

The heavens proclaim his righteousness, 
and all the peoples see his glory. 
All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; 
worship him, all you gods! 
Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, 
because of your judgments, O Lord. 
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; 
you are exalted far above all gods. 
O you who love the Lord, hate evil! 
He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. 

Light is sown for the righteous, 
and joy for the upright in heart. 
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, 
and give thanks to his holy name!
(Ps 97:1–12)

Scripture Reading from the New Testament: 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:1-5 and 9-18)

Advent Reflection:

On this, the fourth week of Advent, we focus on the theme of God’s unconditional Love. The concept of love, especially the love of God, is probably the most difficult thing for us to grasp. We are often impeded by our inability to comprehend the fact that anyone, especially the Holy God, could truly love us for who we are. We question if this is even possible, thinking that the darkness within our own hearts, the hidden sin in our lives, makes us unlovable.  

But, in these moments it is important to remember that God’s love is not based on anything we have done, are doing, or could ever do. Instead, God’s love flows from his nature and character, it is who he is. (1 John 4:8) This love is what ties together the entire narrative of human history: in the intentional way he formed Adam and Eve in his own image, in his commitment to continue relationship after the Fall, in the sending of Jesus, and through the continued work of the Holy Spirit. Whether explicitly stated or overtly implied, God’s unconditional love is expressed through his faithful presence, working on our behalf to make a way for us to be with him. In short, God has proven that his love is an unstoppable force, a force that can’t be derailed by anything we could possibly do.  

During the Advent season, we celebrate Jesus coming to earth as an infant, entering into our realm of existence with full awareness of the sacrifice he would make by taking on the permeating sin corrupting his beloved creation. Sent by the Father, the Son left his place of influence and power in heaven to be reviled as he rectified our wretchedness, repairing the relationship we had so callously cast aside. In the ultimate expression of love, he offered himself on the cross for our sins, eradicating the relational barrier we had erected between ourselves and God.

Born to die, the King of glory,
the hosts of heaven declare his story.
Our Lord Jesus could alone,
our sin and brokenness atone.

He acts with love and shows his power,
our rescue found in desperate hour,
defeating sin that binds us here,
granting grace to draw us near.

So, as we enter into this last week of Advent, with Christmas Day just around the corner, God’s love should be the central aspect of our celebration. Let’s not forget that our eyes and hearts should be drawn to Jesus, who serves as an example of what it truly means to love.

Group Discussion:

1. As a group, spend a few moments thinking through and discussing each of the passages below.

• How do each of these passages: (1) Recall God’s faithful work in the past, (2) Recognize God’s faithful work in the present, (3) Anticipate God’s faithful work in the future. Some might focus on one of these aspects more than the others.

Passages on the Love of God:
1 John 3:7-21
John 13:31-35
John 14:18-21
Phil. 1:9-11
1 Cor 13:1-13

2. What are some practical ways you can participate in God’s work in the next few weeks as you show the love of God to the people who he has placed in your life?

Advent Candle Prayer and Response (Modified from Celtic Daily Prayer): *Leader reads- People Respond:

*We have waited long for You.
Deep has been the darkness.

*We long for You to shine
right here among us where we are. 

*We will not fear the shadows that surround us
if only You will come among us

*We await the sound of a cry in the night,  the joy that follows pain,
the coming of hope. 

(Optional Lighting of the Hope Candle)

*This is the path that the prophets marked who heard the voice of the Lord, ‘Whom shall I send?’,
and they responded, ‘Here am I, send me!’

*These prophets declared the Lord’s simple requirements for his people
to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.

*One prophet said that a young woman would conceive, give birth to a son
and name him ‘Emmanuel’, God with us! 

*Emmanuel would come and preach good news to the poor
and bind up the broken-hearted,

*These same prophets rejoiced saying, ‘A Child is born to us, a Son is given to us
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace.’

(Optional Lighting of the Joy Candle)

*This is the path that John marked,  whose voice called in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’, 

The same John who cried, ‘Repent for the Kingdom of God is near!’
and baptized in the River Jordan many who confessed their sins,
and who pointed out Jesus,  ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’

(Optional Lighting of the Peace Candle)

*This is the path that Mary marked, to whom Gabriel said,
You will give birth to a Son, and will call Him Jesus.’  

 *Mary replied,
I am the Lord’s servant, let it happen as you have said.’ 

*And she rejoiced in her calling,
My heart is overflowing with praise of my Lord, my soul is full of joy in God my Savior.’ 

(Optional Lighting of Love Candle)

*Today, the fourth week of Advent, we light four candles:
The First candle represents the Hope we have in Christ,
The Second candle represents the Joy found in the good news his advent,
The Third candle represents Peace in the presence of Jesus, our King,
The Fourth candle represents the Love we have for God, because he first loved us.

Leader Benediction: 

May God bless you and keep you this week
May you continue to be refreshed by the Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love available in the 
relational presence of the Holy Spirit 
May the light of Jesus Christ shine bright in your life
As you draw others to Him
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

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