Advent is from the latin word for “coming.” It's a season when the Church prepares for the coming of Christ in our hearts and lives. On the four Fridays during Advent, we've asked a CRM staff person to share a reflection on what Christ’s coming could mean for their ministry context, inviting us to engage personally with the weekly themes of Advent: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
1 JOHN 4:9 | This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
1 JOHN 4:7-12 | Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
*Read 1 John 4:9 a few times, then in context, 1 John 4:7-12.
God comes to us a helpless child.
This is the moment where it is either easiest to dismiss God's love, or easiest to embrace it.
People's hearts melt when a baby is placed in their arms. The miracle of life calls out a response to care for, protect, seek the good for, and love this wee person. Even the hardest heart, the most shy and awkward person, fears taking a child in his or her arms—precisely because of the desire to do no harm. The best thing in those moments is to lay the baby in the fearful person's lap, and trust that the child will call forth the love that drives out fear.
The Babe demands nothing from us but love.
At Christmas, God stoops down and empties himself—making himself just as accessible to us, just as vulnerable, as a tiny child—so that we can dare to love him, and in our love for him, find all his love for us.
Every person that we let into our lives increases our capacity for love. God came into our lives in the person of Jesus to give us new capacities for love, by knowing him who is Love, who would give his life up to us in love.
Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the cross, the gospel, the Church, the mission of God—all boil down to love. In Jesus, God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
This is the place of transformation, of spiritual formation—in Jesus, in his love. The best we can do is bring people to Jesus, to let him love them with the love we know, to know him who is Love.
In our ministry to Christian leaders, we often see Satan neutralizing people by sowing doubt, discontent, mistrust, regret and shame in their hearts. Satan loves to subtly make us shift the focus of our hearts from loving Jesus to loving ministry, the church, the poor, evangelism—any thing or anyone more than and apart from loving him first. Satan loves to makes us think that God's love is conditional, and that we have to earn love by serving, so that apparent failure means God doesn't really love us.
To the extent that we relate to God in terms of "how things are going," we have lost touch with the unconditional love of God that transcends all the pain and disappointment of life. As simple as it sounds, it really does come down to Jesus loves me, this I know.
The more we’re changed by his love, the more we are able to live out of the abundance of love that God has poured into our hearts, rather than from a place of striving and performance, of exhaustion or seeking self-worth.
To what extent have you been changed by this love? This Advent season take the Babe in your arms. Let God pour his unconditional love into your heart. Live from that place of abundance.
Look at the Face of Christ in the manger. See the Face of Love. Come, hold the Babe, adore him—Christ the Lord. Find the very love with which you love him is the Love that God has planted in you for himself!
Pray for CRM staff who seek to love God more and lead out of that love through mentoring relationships with Christian leaders in the Church, the missions community, and leadership training schools. Pray for the transformation of the Church, its leaders, ministry, and mission, through deeper experience of the Love of God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill O'Byrne served on a CRM/Ethne team with his wife, Priscilla, in Saint Petersburg, Russia for 22 years, where they raised their four children. During that time Bill was involved in co-founding Imago Christi (i-ma-go kris-tee), the CRM/ChurchNEXT community of spiritual formation ministry, which he now leads from Denver, CO.