Traditionally the theme of the second week of Advent is Love. Often “love” evokes warm feelings of family, friends, and romance. However, depending on a person’s life circumstances, those feelings may be mixed with longing, loneliness, hope, and other emotions.
Sorting out feelings about feelings? Well, love is complicated. Advent adds yet another wrinkle: love as the world falls apart.
The prophet Amos and the apostle Paul both share harsh words about the future. Amos tells the people of Israel they have offended God so mightily that He is “raising up against you a nation, O house of Israel, […] and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath to the Wadi Arabah.” Paul in his second letter to the church in Thessalonica tells them they who do not obey the Gospel “will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” While these passages definitely drive home the message that God desires righteousness, they don’t much describe a God who define Love as a gooey confection of simple affection.
Except in these examples, God’s anger exists because people are too focused on false righteousness and not enough on love. The people of Israel were making ritual sacrifices like clockwork, but ignoring and exploiting the poor. “Obeying the Gospel” wasn’t about rules but about loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. These prophets warned us separation from God occurs when we fail to love God and each other.
Throughout the Bible, God sends warning after warning about the consequences of failing to love. He sends us Jesus so we may be reconciled to him in love, and before that sends us John the Baptist to tell us Jesus is on the way. Love is complicated. Think about your own relationships where love has been broken: it’s rarely a sudden snap, but a slow dissolution with opportunities for one or both sides to repent. God begs us to love better.
Advent is a season for reflecting on how well we love God and each other. Before the world falls apart, God call us to love. Afterward, it is the only thing that saves us.
Comfort: God loves us even in anger.
Challenge: Work on a relationship where love has been broken.
Prayer: Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)
Discussion: How has your understanding of love changed over time?
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