20 Dec Advent 4 | The Mission of Love
In the midst of our holiday preparations and celebrations, there’s a story that cuts through the noise, a story that’s as real as it gets. It’s about how God’s love broke into our world, not with a thunderous entrance, but in the quiet, unassuming birth of Jesus. Think about it: the same God who flung stars into the sky and painted the sunsets we marvel at, chose to make His grand entry as a baby in a manger. This is the heartbeat of John 3:16, a verse we’ve heard time and again, reminding us that God’s love isn’t some lofty concept – it’s tangible, it reached down to us in the most humble way imaginable.
When Jesus came, it wasn’t with the kind of fanfare you’d expect for a king. Nope, He flipped the script. The Almighty became the weakest of us – a newborn. The One who commands the universe learned to speak our language, starting with the simplest words. This is the realness of God’s love. It’s not distant or detached; it’s love that stoops down, that enters our mess, our ordinary lives, and says, “I’m here to stay.”
This is what we celebrate at Christmas. It’s not just about a birth; it’s about the start of a rescue mission. God’s love didn’t stay safe and removed; it got its hands dirty. In Jesus, God embraced our humanity – the beauty and the brokenness – to bring about our redemption. That’s what we’re reminded of in this season: a love so deep, it knows no bounds, a love that meets us right where we are.
Love Contrasted in World Religions
When you look across the landscape of world religions, you’ll often find their holiest figures are those who seek solitude, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Monks, ascetics, and spiritual leaders – they’re usually pictured in places of tranquility, far from the crowds, in a world apart. This kind of spiritual journey, marked by separation and solitude, is a common thread weaving through many faiths. Their revered figures are often those who step away from the world, finding sanctity in isolation, perched in remote temples or on distant mountaintops.
At the heart of the Christian narrative, is a story of a God who chose not to keep His distance. Jesus Christ, embodying true holiness, didn’t opt for isolation; instead, He dived headfirst into the thick of human life. He didn’t seek a throne away from the people; He walked right alongside them, sharing in the laughter and the tears, the everyday and the extraordinary.
This wasn’t a God who observed from afar. Jesus mingled with those society often shunned – the outcasts, the overlooked, the ones labeled ‘too far gone.’ He turned the concept of holiness on its head, showing that true holiness isn’t about keeping the world at arm’s length. It’s about living in it, and loving through it (John 17:15)
In Jesus’ life – from His birth in a humble setting to His selfless death – we see a powerful expression of God’s love. It’s a narrative that defies the expectation of separation as a hallmark of holiness. In Him, the divine and the mundane intertwine, crafting a story of love that speaks through empathy, service, and the ultimate sacrifice. His was a love that didn’t shout from the mountaintops but whispered in the streets, a love that lived, laughed, wept, and ultimately gave everything among us.
The Love Demonstrated at Calvary
The journey of Jesus, marked by compassion and humility, culminated in the ultimate demonstration of love: His sacrifice at Calvary. Romans 5:8 encapsulates this profound act: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” At Calvary, love was not just spoken; it was enacted in the most profound manner imaginable.
This love wasn’t just for those who strayed a little; it was for those who stood in opposition to God. Romans 5:10 unveils the staggering truth: we were more than just sinners; we were enemies, actively resisting God’s will, choosing our own paths, and rebelling against His reign. Left to our devices, we would wander endlessly away from His rule, asserting our independence.
Yet, in the face of our rebellion, God’s love didn’t hold back, waiting for us to become deserving of it. Instead, it reached out to us in our darkest, most undeserving state. The crucifixion stands as the pinnacle of this boundless, unconditional love. It wasn’t an offering reserved for the righteous but extended to every lost, broken, and wandering heart.
At Calvary, we witness what true love really means – it is selfless, it endures, and it encompasses all. It’s a love that doesn’t calculate worthiness but offers itself freely. In this act, we see the depth and breadth of God’s love, a love that sacrifices everything for the sake of the beloved, regardless of their state. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we understand the full dimension of love – a love that goes beyond human understanding, embodying sacrifice, forgiveness, and redemption.
The Sending of Jesus as a Missionary from the Father
At the heart of the Advent story is the Father’s act of sending Jesus into the world, a mission grounded in divine love. This mission redefines the very concept of what it means to be a missionary. Jesus, sent by the Father, stands as the ultimate example of a missionary journey, embodying God’s profound desire to reach and redeem humanity.
Jesus’ arrival on earth was the beginning of a mission unlike any other. Here was God, not just sending a representative, but coming Himself in the person of His Son. In Jesus, we see a missionary who intimately knows the heart of the One who sent Him, a Son who perfectly reflects the Father’s love and intention for a world estranged by sin. This wasn’t a mission of conquest but of rescue, a mission not to dominate but to serve and save.
This mission of Jesus provides a model for our own missionary endeavors. It shows us that our call to mission isn’t about propagating a religion or cultural ideology; it’s about embodying the love and message of the Gospel. Like Jesus, we are sent into our contexts – our communities, workplaces, and social circles – not merely as messengers but as living embodiments of God’s love.
The missional model Jesus presents is one of engagement and incarnation. He didn’t remain aloof from the struggles and pains of human life; He fully immersed Himself in them. His was a mission marked by empathy, where the divine touched the human in the most tangible ways. As followers of Christ, our missionary call mirrors this approach: to engage with our world compassionately, to understand the cultures and communities we serve, and to demonstrate God’s love in practical, relatable ways.
In essence, the missionary journey of Jesus invites us to see every interaction and every moment as an opportunity to live out the love that was first shown to us. As we celebrate His coming this Advent, let’s also embrace our role in this ongoing mission, inspired by the One who was sent to bring hope and transformation to the world.
Practical Applications of Incarnational Mission
In a world fragmented by cultural barriers, the incarnational mission of Jesus teaches us to live contextually, to understand cultures different from our own. It’s about stepping into another’s world, learning their language, appreciating their customs, and respecting their way of life. This doesn’t mean diluting the gospel message; rather, it’s about presenting it in a way that resonates within their cultural framework. It’s like translating the timeless truth of God’s love into a language that hearts can understand and embrace, irrespective of geographic or cultural lines.
This approach requires us to be students of the world around us, eager to learn and understand, rather than quick to judge or impose. It’s about building bridges where walls once stood, finding common ground in our shared humanity, and celebrating the diversity that God has woven into the fabric of His creation.
The evangelistic pursuit in our personal and community life is a vibrant thread in the tapestry of incarnational mission. It’s seeing every interaction, every relationship, as an opportunity to demonstrate the love and truth of the gospel. This isn’t about turning every conversation into a sermon but about letting our lives speak of the hope and transformation we’ve found in Christ.
It’s in the way we respond to our neighbor’s needs, the integrity we show at our workplace, the compassion we offer to the hurting. Our communities should be able to look at our lives and see a reflection of Jesus’ love and grace. Evangelism, in this sense, becomes a natural outflow of the life we live, a compelling narrative of transformation told through our actions and words.
Humility in service and lifestyle choices is perhaps one of the most challenging yet profound aspects of the incarnational mission. It’s about adopting a posture of servanthood, following in the footsteps of the One who washed His disciples’ feet. This humility means putting others’ needs above our own, choosing service over convenience, and sacrifice over comfort.
Our lifestyle choices, too, are a testament to this humility. It might mean living more simply, prioritizing giving over accumulating, and investing in eternal treasures rather than temporal gains. It’s about making choices that align not with the world’s definitions of success but with the Kingdom values Jesus embodied. In a world that often equates value with wealth and power, choosing a humble path is a powerful witness to the transformative love of Christ.
The Church as a Center for Mission
The church, envisioned by Christ as a beacon of His love and truth, stands at the forefront of the mission field. Our devotion to the church’s growth and mission reflects our commitment to this vision. This involves nurturing the church not just as a community where believers gather, but as a dynamic, living organism that grows and impacts the world around it.
Devotion to the church’s mission means actively participating in its life – not as passive attendees, but as engaged members contributing to its growth. It’s about recognizing that each one of us has a role to play – from teaching Sunday school, to participating in outreach programs, to simply being a shoulder to lean on for those in need. It’s about fostering an environment where spiritual gifts are identified and nurtured, where everyone is encouraged to contribute to the collective mission of spreading the Gospel.
Service and generosity are the hallmarks of the church’s mission, modeled perfectly by Jesus. His life was a masterclass in serving others selflessly – feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and ultimately laying down His life for the world. In the same way, our service within the church and beyond its walls should mirror this selflessness.
Generosity, as modeled by Jesus, extends beyond mere financial giving. It’s a generosity of spirit – giving of our time, our talents, and our resources. It’s about seeing our possessions not as ours alone but as tools for God’s work. It involves making sacrifices, sometimes uncomfortable ones, for the sake of others’ wellbeing and for the advancement of the Gospel.
Through service and generosity, the church becomes more than a place of worship – it becomes a vibrant center of hope, love, and transformation, reflecting the heart of Jesus to a world in need. As we give and serve, we embody the very essence of the Gospel, showing the world what it means to follow Christ not just in word, but in deed.
The Global Call of Love
Jesus’ ministry was a definitive statement of God’s inclusive love for all humanity, transcending national, ethnic, and cultural boundaries. His teachings and miracles, while rooted in the context of Jewish culture, carried a universal message of redemption and grace. This global perspective was evident in his interactions, whether it was with a Roman centurion, a Samaritan woman, or a Syrophoenician mother seeking healing for her child.
His command to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) was not just a directive but a declaration of God’s love for every corner of the earth. It was an invitation for all people, from every tribe and tongue, to be part of God’s redemptive plan. This global call of love is a testament to the far-reaching scope of Jesus’ mission, a mission that did not see geographical or cultural barriers, but sought to bring the message of salvation to every soul.
Living as Missionaries in Our Cultural Contexts
Emulating Christ’s incarnational mission calls us to live as missionaries, not just in distant lands, but right where we are – in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and communities. This means embracing our everyday environments as our mission fields, where we demonstrate the love of Christ through our interactions and lifestyle.
Living missionally in our cultural contexts involves understanding and engaging with the culture around us. It’s about building genuine relationships, sharing life with people, and showing Christ’s love in practical ways. This isn’t about imposing our beliefs but about living them out authentically and inviting others to experience the transformative power of the gospel.
As modern-day missionaries, we’re called to be culturally aware, sensitive to the needs and perspectives of those we live among. It’s about being fluent in the language of our culture, both literally and figuratively, using it to communicate the gospel in a way that’s accessible and relevant. Our mission is to be Christ’s ambassadors, representing Him faithfully and lovingly in our unique cultural settings.
Jesus set the ultimate example of humble service – washing His disciples’ feet, healing the sick, and ultimately giving His life for the world. Emulating this aspect of His mission means adopting a posture of humility and selflessness in our service.
Following Jesus’ example of humble service means prioritizing others’ needs over our own ambitions or comfort. It’s about serving without seeking recognition or reward, finding joy in the act of giving rather than receiving. This service can take many forms – from simple acts of kindness to dedicated ministry work.
Our service should also be marked by a willingness to step into the messiness of people’s lives, just as Jesus did. It’s about being present in times of need, offering support and compassion, and being willing to walk alongside others in their struggles. Humble service is a powerful expression of God’s love, a tangible demonstration of the gospel that can break down barriers and open hearts to the message of Christ.
In essence, emulating Christ’s incarnational mission is about living out our faith in a way that’s visible and impactful, showing the world what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus. It’s about being His hands and feet in a world that desperately needs His touch of love and grace.
Called to Love and Sent to Serve
As we conclude our Advent journey, reflecting on the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and now Love, we circle back to the core of what Advent and indeed, the entire gospel message, is about. It’s about being called to love and sent to serve, a calling that finds its perfect expression in the life and mission of Jesus Christ. This season reminds us not only of His miraculous birth but also of the global impact of His love and the role each of us plays in continuing His incarnational mission through the Church.
As we celebrate Advent, we are reminded that Jesus’ birth was just the start. His life, teachings, death, and resurrection would embody this love, a love so powerful that it continues to resonate throughout the world. The Church, as His body, is tasked with ensuring that this love reaches every person, in every nation. We are part of a global story, a story that began in a manger and continues in our lives today.
Advent calls us not only to remember and celebrate but also to participate. Our role in this mission is both a privilege and a responsibility. It’s about bringing the essence of the manger, the self-giving love of Christ, into our everyday interactions.
As we reflect on the wonder of Advent and the miracle of Christmas, let us commit to being active participants in God’s ongoing story. Let us carry the message of hope, peace, joy, and love into the world, serving diligently and loving boldly, just as Christ loved us. In doing so, we continue the mission that started in a humble stable over two thousand years ago, a mission that changed the world forever.
Sermon & Sandwiches
Reflecting on a sermon can deepen our understanding and help us apply its teachings to our everyday lives. Discussing it with someone else, especially over a meal, can offer new insights and perspectives, enhancing how we live out the gospel in our daily walk. Here are some conversation starters to facilitate this kind of meaningful discussion:
- How do you think Jesus’ approach as a missionary challenges the way we view and engage in our own communities? How can we embody His example of love and service in our everyday interactions?
- What aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry resonate most with you personally? How does His experience of living a fully human life impact the way you relate to Him?
- The sacrifice at Calvary is the ultimate demonstration of love. How does understanding the depth of this love influence the way we forgive and extend grace to others, even in challenging situations?
- What are some practical ways we can live out our faith in our current cultural context? How can we show Christ’s love to those who might have different beliefs or backgrounds?
- Reflecting on Jesus’ humility and service, what are some areas in our lives where we can practice being more humble and servant-hearted?
- How can we use our everyday conversations as opportunities for sharing the Gospel in a natural and relatable manner?
- Discuss how the global aspect of Jesus’ ministry influences our perspective on missions. What does it mean for us to have a heart for people from all nations?
- How do you see our church fitting into the larger picture of God’s mission? In what ways can we contribute to the church’s role in this mission?
The Daily Devotion
Monday: Embracing Humility in Christ
- Scripture: Philippians 2:5-8 – “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
- Reflection: Reflect on the humility of Christ and how He chose to serve rather than be served. Consider areas in your life where you can embody this humility.
- Prayer Focus: Pray for a heart that mirrors the humility of Jesus, seeking opportunities to serve others selflessly and to view every situation through the lens of Christ’s love and humility.
Tuesday: The Depth of God’s Love at Calvary
- Scripture: Romans 5:8 – “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Reflection: Meditate on the depth of God’s love displayed at Calvary. Reflect on how this act of sacrifice changes your understanding of God’s love and grace.
- Prayer Focus: Pray for a deeper appreciation of God’s sacrificial love and ask for guidance in extending this unconditional love to those around you.
Wednesday: The Missionary Heart of Jesus
- Scripture: John 20:21 – “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
- Reflection: Consider how Jesus was sent by the Father and how we are called to follow His example. Think about how you can be a missionary in your own context.
- Prayer Focus: Pray for the courage and wisdom to live missionally, asking God to show you opportunities to share His love in your daily life.
Thursday: Living a Life of Service
- Scripture: Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Reflection: Contemplate the servant nature of Jesus and how He prioritized the needs of others. Identify ways you can serve those in your community.
- Prayer Focus: Pray for a servant’s heart, seeking opportunities to serve others as Jesus did, and for the humility to put others’ needs above your own.
Friday: The Global Impact of Jesus’ Love
- Scripture: Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
- Reflection: Reflect on the global mission of Jesus and how His love is meant for all people. Consider how you can be part of this global mission in both prayer and action.
- Prayer Focus: Pray for the global Church and its mission, asking for God’s guidance in how you can contribute to spreading His love and message across the world.