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The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Love

December 23, 2018 • Life for Leaders

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

Luke 1:39-40

 

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we read about the mother of the yet-to-be-born Jesus, rushing from her hometown to stay with her relative Elizabeth. Mary could have been rushing out of obedience to the angel who informed her of the incredible mission of carrying the Messiah. Or Mary could have been fleeing her small hometown out of fear of reprisal from family, friends, and neighbors who would certainly judge her in the coming months for being pregnant and unwed. But I’d like to think that Mary’s haste was primarily out of love.

Fallen leaves in the shape of a heart.My friend was a nanny for a Jewish family in Los Angeles in the 1990s. A committed Christian, she cared deeply for Hannah, the little girl entrusted into her care. And she was always praying for an opportunity to naturally allow her Christian faith to come through. One day, as she was driving Hannah through Beverly Hills, Hannah excitingly said, “Look at all the beautiful lights!” The infamous Rodeo Drive was beautifully lighted for the holiday season. Hannah pressed her face to the window as her vision was filled with hundreds of lights. “What are all the lights for?” Hannah asked. My friend knew these decorations for the holidays might be an opportunity to share about her faith in Jesus, so she chose a diplomatic way to share about the meaning of the lights. “The decorations are for Jesus’s birthday. Christmas is about the birth of the Savior.” Hannah quietly thought about it for a minute, and my friend wondered if she had crossed a line in some way. Hannah asked, “Well, what do you think Jesus wants for his birthday?”

My friend was at first shocked by Hannah’s response and then stumped about the child’s question. She thought to herself, “What would Jesus want for Christmas?  I mean, he is the Lord of the universe. He doesn’t exactly need anything!”

My friend started to panic. She wanted to say the right thing but didn’t know what to say. She didn’t want to blow this opportunity to talk about Jesus, so she did what any intelligent believer would do. She stalled. Then, without really thinking it through, she instructed Hannah, “Why don’t you ask Jesus what he wants?” hoping that would buy her some more time.

Hannah, without hesitating, says, “Okay.” Hannah immediately shuts her eyes like she is doing some serious praying. Now my friend really starts to panic and begins to silently pray: “Please Lord. . . I know you don’t usually do this. . . but if You were ever planning to speak audibly to someone. . . right now would be great!” Time seemed like it was standing still. My friend was afraid that she had blown this opportunity with Hannah.

Hannah opened her eyes and simply said, “I talked with Jesus.” My friend then asks with some hesitation: “Well. . .  what did he say?”

Without skipping a beat, Hannah answered: “Jesus said all he wants for Christmas. . . is me!”

Hannah’s story reminds us that Jesus Christ came to a young Jewish girl to bring a message of love to the world. Mary rushed to Elizabeth believing that in her belly was the hope, peace, joy, and love that the world was looking for. Christmas isn’t about a God who hesitantly came to earth. Christmas isn’t about a God who needed to impose his rule upon his subjects. He wanted to come. God wants to love. Advent reminds us that the entire Bible is really a love story about a God who seeks and saves the lost.

Something to Think About:

My friend was simply going about her work that day when Christ entered in and made an impact. What would it look like for God to encounter people in your daily life? Do people feel safe around you to have spiritual conversations? How do you most naturally like to share the love of God with others (words, actions, gifts, acts of service)?

Something to Do:

Reflect on these words of Jesus:

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Sit with Jesus for a few minutes and thank him for finding you, saving you, and embracing you. Ask him for opportunities to share his love this week.

Prayer:

Lord, Jesus, help me to embrace you as Immanuel-God with us! You are the God who came near. The God who wanted to come near! Out of love for your creation you humbled yourself for the hope that we might respond to your sacrificial life of love. May I respond to your invitation to offer my whole self this Christmas, centering my life on you and living my life for you. There is no greater love than the love you have given to me. Thank you for Christmas! Amen.

 

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