Advent Devotionals: Tuesday, December 1

COMPELLED BY LOVE
“The call to love is vast: rooted in the very structuring of creation, encompassing everything that lives and breathes, summoning us to give our utmost to God and one another.
But, as with so many other essential aspects of our lives it begins small and often finds expression in the most seemingly mundane ways.”
(Chris Webb, God Soaked Life)

Genesis 1:26-31, Isaiah 9:2,1 John 4:7-12, 19, Ephesians 3:17-19

Today we arrive at our first Advent landmark LOVE.
LOVE... a word with so many layers and so many nuances ranging from "I love that movie" to "How do I love thee, let me count the ways" - a poem written by Elizabeth Barret Browning to express the depth and height and breadth of love toward her husband. It was a soul mate kind of love, this "oneness" with her beloved that acknowledged her soul was expanding to its edges as a result of this great love.

Over the next few days we will be exploring what it means to be loved by God and what it looks like to love others. There will be a choice at the end to choose love - love over hate, love over anger, love over fear, love over ___________ you fill in the blank.
We start our pilgrimage with love because it is here that we set our course on how we will move to a place of hope, peace and joy. It is within the security of love that we are able to become vulnerable enough to process and face our despair, anxiety and grief, among other things. It is through love that we can build trust and find courage to grapple with our demons, those things that haunt us and keep us awake at night.

I am not talking about just any love. It is God’s perfect love that provides us the space to find healing. And it is through God’s love that we in turn can provide space for others to heal. If we have any hope of finding and bringing healing to our world, we need to believe that God is love, that he loves us and that his love will overcome.

God has gotten a bad rap. When things go wrong in the world or in our own lives, we blame God. We are looking at God and situations through a lens of fear, hatred, distrust and insecurity. Not only is this a terrible way to live, but it is actually incorrect. It is fear that pushes us to take on the role of judge and jury. Distrust makes us believe we are in control. But Truth shows us that when the world is in turmoil and disarray, only love can overcome and heal.
God is the author and creator of love. It is his love that will heal and redeem. This truth goes back to the beginning of time... or perhaps even long before time began.

In the beginning God created the world (Genesis 1), God, the One with no beginning or end, whose expanse is incomprehensible to the human mind, was not content to be alone. So much so that he created humans. US! He created us from a place of love in his own image. This is important to note because it points to the fact that humans bear witness to who God is. In our own imperfect way, we are to bear witness to the love of God. More on that later.
Pause and think about it for a moment. God desired us! There was a longing for us. Right from the beginning of time, there was love. God IS love. He is the embodiment of love.
Right from the start, it was LOVE that compelled God (1 John 4).

From that moment on, as we read the Story of God, we see that it is love that drives and permeates everything God does. He made a covenant with his people through Abraham. When the Israelites rebelled, God forgave and gave them a new start. Over and over, God redeemed his people because of love. Even discipline and justice are best understood in the context of love.

And then, in the midst of a dark and frightening world, a Light pierces through the darkness and said, “I love you”. The long awaited Messiah has come. This is the Advent Promise, compelled by love... when everything around us is dark and hopeless, we pause to remember we have a Saviour, who quietly offers his love and waits.

Our world is lacking love. The glitter and distraction, the fear and hatred of this world overshadows the quiet and unassuming manger where love resides. We try to substitute love with all sorts of things like lust, addiction, and even hate, using them to protect ourselves from people and situations we don't understand. Hate does not bring healing. Fear does not bring joy. Distrust and insecurity do not bring peace.

Our only hope is love. God’s love working in us and through us to bring healing to our world. We love because God loved us first.
Author Fleming Rutledge writes,
“The Advent season encourages us to resist denial and face our situation as it really is.”
("Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ”)

Right now our situation is dark. Everything is unknown and our future is uncertain. It is time to make a choice to view our circumstances through God’s lens of love and compassion. The world needs us, God’s people, to bear witness to him by offering love, compassion, and hope to others. As followers of Jesus, LOVE must be the driving force behind our actions.
For the next few days, we will be exploring pathways and practices that lead to receiving and giving love. Take time to immerse yourself in these practices. Open your heart to the possibilities on the other side of fear. And remember... God loved us first.

Theologian Soren Kierkegaard wrote this beautiful prayer. Let’s commit to praying it each day.
“Father in Heaven! You have loved us first, help us never to forget that You are love so that this sure conviction might triumph in our hearts over the seduction of the world, over the inquietude of the soul, over the anxiety for the future, over the fright of the past, over the distress of the moment. But grant also that this conviction might discipline our soul so that our heart might remain faithful and sincere in the love which we bear to all those whom You have commanded us to love as we love ourselves.
You have loved us first, O God, alas! We speak of it in terms of history as if You have only loved us first but a single time, rather than that without ceasing You have loved us first many things and every day and our whole life through. When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul toward You – You are the first – You have loved us first; if I rise at dawn and at the same second turn my soul toward You in prayer, You are there ahead of me, You have loved me first. When I withdraw from the distractions of the day and turn my soul toward You, You are the first and thus forever. And yet we always speak ungratefully as if You have loved us first only once.”

REFLECTION:
  1. What is your picture of God? Does this picture draw you closer or push you farther away from him?
  2.  Do you believe that just as he sent Jesus once, that he will send him again to ultimately redeem all
    things? Why?
  3.  What prevents you from wholeheartedly receiving love from God? What prevents you from
    wholeheartedly loving others? Write your answers down.
PRACTICES:
  1.  Morning Prayers of praise and gratitude. (Suggestion: Write out your prayers)
  2. Evening Prayers - Examen.
  3. Pray the Soren Kierkegaard prayer (above)
  4. Scripture Reading (at the top of the Daily Devotion)
  5. CHALLENGE: Take a moment to think of 1 or 2 people you find difficult to love. Will you commit to
    praying for them each day?

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