2018 Christmas Advent (2)

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A little less than a year after we lost our baby, we had the opportunity to adopt this little red head boy. He was about as cute as could be, had a lazy eye that, if I remember correctly was the result of his biological mothers probable alcohol and drug use during her pregnancy. To be honest, the lazy eye just added to the cuteness of the little guy! The adoption was to be handled through the State of Nebraska’s Foster/Adopt program. At the time he was almost 3 years old and already had foster parents, but they were not going to be able to adopt him, so the State was looking for a home that had the potential to be permanent. Our next door neighbor, Joanne, was a Social worker and we were very close to her. She helped us with everything.
Their plan was to start with short visits, first at his current foster parents home, then they would bring him to our home for a couple hours at a time. Before long he would come and spend the night with us.
Besides his lazy eye, this little guy had some other health issues as well. It seemed he almost constantly struggled with bronchitis and bronchial infections, which included some nasty coughs. 3 times every day he had to do breathing treatments, but we felt we were prepared for the issues. So the 1st over night visit was set up. We were a little nervous, but we were also pretty excited. At the time he had a one of those nasty bronchial infections and a cough, so he came with some medicines in tow. One was a cough medicine that had codeine in it that was supposed to be taken right before bedtime. So being the good soon to be parents we were, right before bedtime we gave him the medicine. Did I happen to mention that at 33 & 34 years old Pam and I had never had a child before that could actually walk? Well with our years of experience raising 3 year olds, after giving him his night time medicine, we set it on the bathroom counter, I mean in 4 hours we were supposed to give him another dose, so the counter seemed like a logical place to keep it! We then went downstairs to watch a little TV. After a couple hours we came upstairs and Pam noticed the bathroom light was on. She went in to the bathroom to turn the light off and noticed a little cough medicine had been spilled on the counter. When she picked up the bottle, she realized that our little guy had decided he was big enough to take the medicine himself, and why take just 2 teaspoons full, surely more would be better, so he downed the entire bottle. Soon we were rushing to the ER to have his stomach pumped. The State must have been pretty hard up for adoptive parents, because for some reason they didn’t stop the whole process right then!
Fast forward a couple months, he now lived with us full time. By then we had pretty much fallen in love with little Stevie. Since he was sick all the time, his Dr. wanted to run some tests to see if they could figure out what was causing the constant bronchitis. After running a series of tests, his Dr. said it appeared he had Cystic Fibrosis. This was before there was an internet, so we were sent home some information on this deadly decease.
The easiest description of this decease is that the child always has a lot of fluid in their lungs as well as other internal organs. This fluid interferes with the respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems and produces a thick, sticky mucus. It builds up and clogs the small airways and passageways which carry harmful bacteria out of the body. Because the bacteria is trapped, serious infections develop that weaken the organs and place constant stress on the immune system. At the time the best case scenario was a hard life for child and parents that would end in his 20’s.
We were soon headed across the State to Omaha for further tests to confirm the diagnosis. The State gave us the option of immediately ended the adoption process, but how do you do that? By now we loved little Stevie, the thought of abandoning him when he needed us most was beyond our comprehension. Our answer was easy, we were not about to stop.
Then came the good news, the initial diagnosis was incorrect, Stevie did not have Cystic fibrosis, just a severe case of asthma, and there was a good chance he could outgrow the asthma. Which he did. Stevie now goes by Steven, and he just turned 28 on the 10th.
Now perhaps you’re wondering what this story has to do with Christmas, and particularly what it has to do with this week’s Advent, the Advent of Love
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2018 Christmas Advent-The Advent of Love

To answer that question, turn with me in your Bibles to 1 John 3:1.
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1 John 3:1 Page 1303 In the pew Bibles.
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1 John 3:1
1 John 3:1 ESV
1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Did you notice what I noticed? For those who have put their faith and trust in Christ, we are now “called children of God”. We have been adopted into the family of God.
Similar in some ways to Pam and me adopting Steven, our choosing Steven to be our son, we were chosen by God, but that is where the similarities end. When Pam and I started the adoption process with Steven, he was so cute that you couldn’t help but fall in love with the little guy. Show slide of Steven
The same cannot be said for any of us, when we were chosen by God.
We read in Romans 5:8 Next Slide
Romans 5:8
Romans 5:8 ESV
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
I can’t speak for you, but for me there are times that in my mind I get to thinking that I was chosen by God because He looked down at me and thought, “Now I can do something great with him!” That He chose me because of the incredible potential He saw in me! Like excuse me while I pat myself on the back! But Romans 5:8 is pretty clear. Next Slide
He loved me enough to chose me when there was nothing at all cute and lovely about me.
The same is true of you! Need a little convincing?
The Greek word Paul uses for “sinner” is the word hamartōlos.
As I have mentioned a few times in the past, the Greek language is a beautiful language filled with word pictures. hamartōlos is one of those word pictures.
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hamartōlos means-devoted to sin, a sinner, pre-eminently sinful, especially wicked.
We’re not talking about a kid who was caught with his hand in a cookie jar here. We are talking about an individual, and by individual I mean every last one of us, we are talking about an individual who is sinful to the very core of their being.
Yet there we are, rotten to the core, and still God adopted us as “children of God”. That is what I call love. Did you notice the difference between Pam and my love for Steven and God’s love for us? We fell in love with Steven because of his characteristics. His red hair, lazy eye, his cute little voice, that lower lip of his that would stick out like 2 inches when he was pouting. However, when it came to God’s love for us....well lets just say that if He was going off of our characteristics....we’d still be waiting in the spiritual orphanage.
With these things in mind, let’s turn in our Bibles to this mornings Christmas passage. Now before you head back in your Bibles to Matthew or Luke, I’d like to introduce you to another little known Christmas passage. By little known Christmas passage, I mean many of you are familiar with the passage, just not as a Christmas passage, but I think as we go through it this morning together, you will see why it is a perfect fit for Christmas, and especially this Sunday’s Advent of Love.
Turn in your Bibles to 1 John 4:9. Next Slide
1 John 4:9
1 John 4:9 ESV
9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
Now while this passage may not have angels present, bringing a message of a miraculous birth, while it may be absent sheep & shepherds, wisemen and gifts, and some strange boy that brought a drum to play to a sleeping baby, oh wait, that last part isn’t in the Bible! That being said, I do love listening to Bing Crosby and David Bowe version of The Little Drummer Boy.
While it may not have many of the things we traditionally think about when we think of Christmas, I believe it is still a pretty powerful Christmas passage.
There are 3 keys in this verse I want us to consider this morning. The first one is this: Next Slides
The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus makes clear to us that which was previously hidden.
We see that in the word “manifest”. Next Slide
The word manifest means “to make visible or known that which has been hidden or unknown”.
So what was it that was previously hidden? Well in many ways it was the love of God. While the people may have had a head knowledge of the love of God.
They had been told of all that the God of Moses had done for them in delivering them from their slavery to the Egyptians.
They had been told the stories of the great Judges of the past, of Sampson and his great strength, of Gideon and his 300 men that defeated an army of close to 150,000.
The had heard of the great kings of the past, the had been told the story of the boy David who God empowered to slay the giant and who later became the King of Israel.
But it had now been 400 hundred years since they had heard from God.
Then Jesus showed up, and the love of God was on display for them daily. God’s love was no longer hidden, it had been made manifest to them.
That brings us to the next key from 1 John 4:9, Next Slides
2. God’s plan for redemption was now made manifest.
Up until that time, the path to redemption appeared to be through the sacrifice of animals to pay the price for the sins of people. Hundreds of thousands of lambs were slain every year to atone, or pay the price, for the sins of the people. What the people didn’t realize all those years was that the blood of those lambs never really paid the price for their sins. From the very beginning the shed blood of those lambs was to give mankind a picture of the future shed blood of the ultimate Lamb, that Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Remember how John the Baptists introduced Jesus? Next Slide
John 1:29 ESV
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
God’s plan for redemption was no longer hidden, it was made manifest. His plan for redemption was not through the shed blood of those lambs, but through the shed blood of THE LAMB. That is why the Christmas story does not end with the manger, the Christmas story means nothing without the cross, in fact for many years our manger scene included a cross, a cross made out of thorns similar to those on the crown of thorns Jesus wore on the cross. The cross is absolutely pivotal to the Christmas story.
Please don’t miss this: Next Slides
The virgin birth, while miraculous, was pointless without the cross.
That brings us to the next key from 1 John 4:9, Next Slides
3. A fulfilled life comes only through Jesus.
The verse ends with the statement: “so that we might live through Him.
The word live here has a much deeper meaning than just the physical life we each live. In its context here it means “emphatically, and in the Messianic or spiritual sense, to enjoy real life, i. e. to have true life and worthy of The Name — active, blessed, endless in the kingdom of God”.
In other words, the fulfilled life we receive through Him is beyond comprehension, it is active, its blessed and the blessings that come with this life are without end because they continue into eternity.
What a beautiful picture of true love we have been given.
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First, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, makes clear to us the love of God that was previously hidden.
Second, that love He displayed to us through His sacrifice on the cross, now opens our eyes to His plan for our redemption. Our redemption was paid in full by Him on the cross.
Third, we now understand that we can have an eternally fulfilled life through Jesus, again, bought and paid for on the cross.
Now, having had our eyes opened to God’s indescribable love for us, having had our eyes opened to His plan for our redemption that paves the way for an eternally fulfilled life for us, lets not ask Whats in it for us, we already know the answer to that question. Instead, lets ask, What do I do now? By what do I do now, my question is, what is the application for me?
For the application, let’s look at the 2 more verses in chapter 4. Next Slide
1 John 4:11
1 John 4:11 ESV
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Do you remember the last phrase of verse 9?
so that we might live through Him.
Perhaps the most significant way that we can “live through Him” is by His love flowing through us. That is what we see in verse 11. A by-product of His love for us, is our love for one another. In other words: Next Slides
The love of Jesus flows through us.
Pam and I are pretty excited this morning. Brittany is on her Christmas break and is spending a few weeks with us. My years through Senior High were pretty much uneventful, and when I graduated, if you were watching the graduation procession from the stands, there was nothing about me that would make me stand out, and since there were around 700 in my graduating class, I was kinda hard to spot. Oh, there he is, do you see him? He’s the one in the blue cap and gown!
When Brittany graduated, it wasn’t nearly as difficult to spot her. While her cap and gown were identical to the other graduates, she had something else that set her apart from every other student. She had deep crimson red cords hanging around her neck that had these beautiful tassels on each end. To my knowledge she was the only graduate that had crimson red cords. When a graduate wears cords, the cords are there to identify a significant achievement, perhaps 4 years on the honor roll, maybe to identify members of the National Honor Society, there are really a whole host of notable achievements identified by the cords, all are worthy of our respect. But in many ways the crimson red cords Brittany wore are the most significant of all the other cords. You see the her cords signified that from the time Brittany turned 16, which is the age where you can legally donate blood, Brittany had donated over 1 gallon of blood.
To put this in perspective for you, according to the Red Cross, 3 lives are saved with each pint of blood given. There are 8 pints in each gallon. That means that 24 lives were saved through the 1 gallon of blood Brittany donated while going through Senior High. You see life flows through our blood.
So what’s the point? Well just as life flows through our blood, God’s love is to flow through us. Now as impressive as is is to save lives through the donation of our blood, it is significantly more important that God’s love flows through us. While Brittany may have saved 24 lives through donating her blood, her blood may not have transformed a single life. Yes lives may have been saved, but that doesn’t mean they were transformed. But: Next Slides
When God’s love flows through us, lives are transformed!
Let’s move to verse 12. Next Slide
1 John 4:12
1 John 4:12 ESV
12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
When John writes that “ No one has ever seen God”, he is specifically speaking about God the Father. Well when Jesus, you know, the One Who’;s birth we celebrate each year at Christmas, when Jesus was on earth, God’s love was made manifest through Him. Do you remember from earlier what the word manifest means? (Made visible). In other words, God the Father was revealed or made visible to us through the life of His Son.
Well Jesus is no longer visibly present to manifest God the Father on earth. But according to verse 12, Next Slides when His love flows through us towards one another, not only does He abide in us, His love is perfected in us.
When God’s love flows through us to one another, His love is perfected in us.
John MacArthur writes: “The unseen God thus reveals Himself through the visible love of believers; the love that originated in God and was manifested in His Son is now demonstrated in His people.
Earlier in our service, we read 1 Corinthians 13. Of course most of us know this as the love chapter. Well what I would like us to do this morning is to take verses 4-7 as our theme verses this week. Next Slides
1 Corinthians 13:4–7 ESV
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Cor. 13:4-7Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
These verses are printed at the bottom of your insert this morning. I want to challenge you today to do one of two things. Either write those verses down on an index card, or just cut them off of the bottom of your insert.
Then I want you to start each day reading these verses allowed. Thinking through them. Then I want you to bring them with you, it could be in your pocket, your purse, in your daily planner, somewhere that you will see them throughout the day, be reminded of them.
Think through them when your in the traffic, waiting in line while doing your Christmas shopping, dealing with that one co-worker, classmate or family member that just drives you crazy. As you think through them, I want you to think of concrete ways you can live them out daily. That God’s love might flow through you, transforming lives…starting with your own.
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