4th Advent – Love
His Perfect Love
This is the Sunday we celebrate the 4th day of Advent. This past month we have considered the Advent Sundays of Hope, Peace, and Joy, and lit candles to mark each occasion. Today, the Sunday of 4th Advent we contemplate Love.
Allow me to begin with a familiar Christmas passage from Luke.
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census took place while Cyrenius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Many, over the years, have considered the innkeeper here in this story as some sort of heartless villain. But I wish to dismiss this thinking and present a slightly different account.
- The Greek word translated “inn” is
- According to some, a kataluma was a large square edifice built around an open inner courtyard.
- The centre of the courtyard contained a well.
- Often the building was two stories, with the lower one containing stalls for beasts and the upper consisting of small rooms for the use of the human travelers.
- The inn where there was no room for Joseph and Mary has traditionally been thought of as this.
- However, the word could also mean something quite different.
- Some believe the original word referred to a guest chamber or lodging place in a private home.
- According to this view, Joseph and Mary planned to stay at the home of friends or relatives, makes sense, but the small dwelling and its guest chamber were so full that they had to be housed in the lower portion where the animals were quartered.
- Recall that by the time the magi arrived at “the house” some two years later, where Jesus was living (Matthew 2:11) the family would already have been moved upstairs.
- The other guests would have left by then.
- In order for Mary to have some privacy during her delivery it was deemed better to move her and Joseph down to the lower level.
And I believe that this was not just a casual decision, made at-the-spur-of-the-moment, but a move of profound prophetic import.
- A manger is a feeding trough, made from stone as seen in the above
- But these stone feeding troughs were used for another purpose.
- Newborn lambs destined for the temple worship were also placed in these “mangers.”
- The newborn lambs would be wrapped tightly… swaddled… in specially designated temple cloths, and they would be laid in a manger to keep them contained and safe while they were being examined for blemishes.
- At the appointed time, the shepherds would separate the lambs, selecting only the firstborn males that were without mark or blemish, and would lead them to Jerusalem, where they would be purchased by people wanting to present a sacrifice before the Lord to atone for their sins.
- When the angel appeared to the shepherds in the fields, he told them that they would find the newborn King wrapped in swaddling cloth and laying in a manger (a stone feeding trough.)
Listen to Luke 2:8-20.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on the earth peace, goodwill toward men. And it came to pass as the angels were gone away from them to heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.”
- They knew exactly where He would be found, because swaddling cloth were only used in one particular location, and for one particular purpose.
- Just outside of Bethlehem there stands a tower of stone called Migdal Eder.
- Traditionally, Migdal Eder, is the place where sacrificial lambs were wrapped and examined for perfection before being set apart for the slaughter that would atone for sin and make peace with God.
- Migdal Eder in Hebrew is often translated as “Tower of the Flock.”
- It is also the site where Rachel was buried. SLIDE 2
So, if you have ever wondered why shepherds were the first sent to see the birth of Jesus, perhaps this is the reason.
- These shepherds were out tending their flock during the spring birthing season.
- They were familiar with the ceremonies of selection of new born lambs for temple worship.
- They were familiar with new born lambs being wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in stone mangers for safe keeping until inspection.
- They were told to journey to Bethlehem to see this new born baby.
- And to look for the one wrapped similarly as the sacrificial lambs, and placed similarly in a stone manger.
- And that this One would be the Saviour Christ the Lord.
- They would recall perhaps the reference to Bethlehem as given in Micah 5:2:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judea, yet out of you shall come forth unto me, The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
The priests who would be doing the inspections would certainly be familiar with this verse and these shepherds would have noticed the reference.
These shepherds would easily make the connection!
The Luke passage says, “and this shall be a sign unto you . . .”
- The “sign” the shepherds would recognize is “a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a stone feeding trough.”
- They would make the connection!
- God was to show them His pure spotless lamb soon to be offered as the Saviour of the whole world.
“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us.”
Their witness was critical.
“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger.”
And they spread the word.
“And when they had seen, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”
As the pure spotless lambs wrapped and placed in these stone mangers so now, God’s pure spotless lamb wrapped and likewise resting in a stone manger.
- No room at the inn, no problem, it was all planned.
- Such is the unspeakable love of GOD!
Such magnificent attention to detail.
- And His magnificent attention to detail is available to each of us because of His love.
His love demonstrated towards us by the gifting of His Son.
Galatians 4:4 tells us this.
“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
- At the perfect moment in time Jesus was sent.
- He was made of a woman – culminating the promise given to Eve after her and her husband’s fall.
- That the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent.
- The Seed of the woman – made of a woman.
- He was made under the law – He is born as are we all – our Kinsman Redeemer.
- Born and soon to die “to redeem them that were under the law.”
- That includes all of us gathered here this day!
- And the result of this – “that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
Allow me to make an analogy.
Think back to the terrible time of slavery in the southern states.
- There we find our black brothers and sisters “born under the law.”
- The law under which they were born into was a cruel harsh task master.
- They had no rights, no freedom but were bound to a future of utter despair.
- Now imagine a plantation owner deciding to free one of the slaves.
- That may be considered as an act of love on the owner’s part.
- But this verse in Galatians goes further. It says that not only are we freed but also we receive the gift of adoption!
- To continue our analogy, our plantation owner not only frees the slave, but invites the freed man into his own home and places him as an heir with his own children! – now that’s the love of Father God.
- His perfect timing in sending His perfect Gift out of His Perfect heart of love.
Let us contemplate what we learn from the Bible concerning His Perfect Love.
- Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrated His love towards us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
- God’s love is one of demonstration. So too our love needs to be acts of demonstration.
- We should demonstrate our love by loving the unlovable.
- It’s easy to love those that love us; to love those that agree with us, but quite another thing to love those who do not love us nor agree with us.
Recall, if you would, the moment that Pilate stood upon his balcony centered between Barabbas and Jesus before the riotous crowd.
- Here we all stand in Barabbas utter criminals deserving of punishment.
- And there stands Jesus our Kinsman Redeemer utterly innocent and pure.
- And Jesus chose to take our place, to take our punishment, to take our banishment upon Himself.
- For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son.
- Romans 5:10 continues the thought.
“For when we were enemies we were reconciled to God . . .”
- God reconciled us to Himself while we were enemies to Him.
- How often did Christ remind us to pray for our enemies?
- And to recognize that we have been called into a ministry of reconciliation.
- God’s kind of love requires us to turn the other cheek; to give up our coat.
- 1 John 4:19 reminds us also,
“We love Him because He first loved us.”
- Everything flows out from the love-heart of God.
- We did not go seeking after God out of our hearts of love, no, He came and sought us in order to save us.
- Our hearts were far from Him.
- And we need to demonstrate our love for others – especially the unlovable – from our position of forgiveness, purity and righteousness in which we now stand because of Him.
- What I mean here is that God loves us from His position of purity and holiness.
- We have now been clothed in the righteousness of Jesus and so we are now viewed by the Father through the purity and holiness of Jesus.
- It is now our responsibility to love the unlovable from this position into which we have been placed.
- This section of Romans goes on to say,
“If a person says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him, That he who loves God loves his brother also.”
- The underlying message here is that since we possess God within us, via His Spirit, and since God is love, then we must demonstrate His love.
- Must in that there is really no choice here.
- God has placed His Spirit of love within each believer and this love we possess must work its way out to others.
- God’s love in us is the fruit of His Spirit.
- We should and must be exhibiting the full fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, peace, joy . . . “
- In fact, this is one way we know we are His, if we are demonstrating His love.
- And we demonstrate that we are “in Him” and that “He is in us” is by our demonstration of His love.
- When we choose not to love we are quenching the Holy Spirit and denying the Spirit the opportunity to motivate us to love.
“If a person says they love God but hates his brother . . .”
We must not be stepping around the one lying beaten and bruised and hungry and homeless. We must demonstrate our love for the unlovable.
We must provide the oil of healing, the food, the lodging.
- John 15:9-12.
“As the Father has love me so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love: even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.”
- The way in which we abide in His love is by keeping His commandments.
- And what is the commandment He gives us here?
- It is the command to love one another.
- “Teacher what is the greatest commandment?”
- “To love God with all your heart, mind and body and to love your neighbour as yourself.” But who is my neighbour?
- If we are not doing this we are quenching His Spirit.
- And a measuring barometer of how we are doing is the level of our joy.