Summary: Fourth in a series on the symbolism of the Advent Wreath. How we are to show love.
Advent 4: Love
In the past three weeks, we have been building up to this week. In two more days, we will be celebrating the birth of our savior. We’ve used this Advent season to help us prepare for this holiday as well as reflect on what Christmas means by examining each of the symbols of the Advent wreath.
Three weeks ago, we looked at the first candle of the Advent wreath which represents Hope. From the first sin in the Garden of Eden, God had a plan for the Messiah to come. Hope was present from the very beginning. Through the announcement to Zechariah and Elizabeth, hope was given to the future parents of John the Baptist. This was the messenger who would lead the way for Jesus and his ministry. Hope manifest itself in the birth of Jesus.
Two weeks ago, we looked at the second candle which represents preparation. All through Biblical history, scripture has pointed to the coming messiah. In the book of 2nd Samuel, God made the announcement that David’s heir would be the Christ. But that was not the only preparation. Isaiah wrote that the messiah would be born of a virgin. Many situations and people had to come together to fulfill the plan God set out. The prophecies were preparations for the future. He planned it from the beginning. Those preparations led up to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Last week, we looked at the third candle which represents Joy. We saw the sacrifice of Abraham with his son Isaac and the joy they experienced when the sacrifice was not required. Joy was also experienced by Elizabeth and her unborn son John when they saw Mary who was pregnant with Jesus. They were face to face with their Lord and savior, and they knew that salvation was coming. We also discussed how everyday events in our lives, we share, but how much more important it is to share the joy of our eternal salvation with those who may not know the good news. We have the promise of eternal life through Jesus the Christ because of God’s grace, not because of our own efforts. The joy is here because of the birth of the Christ!
Today, we look at the final candle of the Advent wreath and examine how God’s love has been the driving force behind the birth of Jesus. The past three weeks have been nothing less than examples showing God’s love for us. We have done nothing but earn eternal damnation through our own sin and disobedience to God’s Word. But, God loves us so much, that he sent His own son to suffer and die in our steed. God is love.
The Garden of Eden
Back in the earliest recorded history, we find that God has a story of love for us. In Genesis, we read a story about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God has spent his time doing nothing but preparing a place for man to dwell. He’s created the earth, the sun, the moon, the animals and a place to live. He’s done this all for the sake of one man and one woman. Adam and Eve.
Picture this… a lush green landscape filled with every kind of fruit tree known. Ripe harvests of fresh fruits and vegetables are ready on the vine, in the trees and on the ground. Colorful flowers fill the area with roses, tulips and other assorted colors and smells. A gentle brook flows through the area in peaceful harmony with the surrounding beauty. Paradise is what Adam and Eve were brought into. They were also greeted with the immediate presence of God in their midst. They were able to talk directly with and to God. They knew their maker in a way we can only imagine.
With all these beautiful surroundings, they were given only one command to follow; do not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. One simple command that we, as sinners, could not keep. Adam and Eve both broke this rule which set all of mankind on a path of sin and with that, separation from God. God loved his creation and created a world for mankind to inhabit. He was unable to let man condemn himself because of His love for us.
God, in his infinite love of man, set a new path. Here in the Old Testament lesson we heard moments ago, we hear of the prediction of Eve’s offspring crushing Satan’s head and Satan bruising the heel of the Messiah. This is the Gospel within the Old Testament and the story of Jesus and salvation.
Love is a difficult thing for sinful man to grasp. John tried to explain God’s love for us in his letters. John knew Jesus not just spiritually, but also personally. He was there to experience first hand the love of our savior. He tried to communicate that to others in the Epistle lesson we heard earlier. “If we love one another, God abides in us.” (1 John 4:12) But, “if someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20). This is a small version of the love that God has for us. It is clear direction that we are to love all of our fellow men, not just our family, friends but our co-workers, our boss and even strangers on the street. God sacrificed so much for us, this is a small price to pay as a tribute of thanks.