See What Great Love — Love of Advent

Scripture Focus: 1 John 3.1-3
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 

Reflection: See What Great Love — Love of Advent
By John Tillman

Human family is often used as an analogy for spiritual family. However, human love consistently fails to show the full depth of God’s love. It is seeing through a darkened, warped glass. (1 Corinthians 13.12-13) All of us can probably think of strained relationships in our human families. There may be those we only tolerate because they are family or family members who only begrudgingly associate with us.

Cultural celebrations of love and family during the holidays can highlight this tension. Many of the stories we share or watch, especially holiday films, focus on perfect, or near-perfect, families. Even if at the beginning of a holiday film there is tension and division, we are sure that, before the credits roll, all will be well. In our own lives, however, finding that resolution is never a sure thing.

Even the best and healthiest of families fall short of being perfect examples of God’s family. Also, many people’s experience of family has been harmful or even abusive. In one way or another, human families fall short of divine family. 

Even the purest and most idealistic family we could imagine is insufficient to express the love of God for us. John glowingly tells us of our true hope in the love of God’s family. This love we anticipate at Advent is not begrudging affection. It is a full-throated cry of love from God’s heart for his children. It is lavish love. It is over-abundant, extravagant love.

We are brought in, not with apologies or cringing, but with joy and love. John tells us that we are loved now, as we are, but that what we will become through this love is not fully known. As Christ appears to us, we are to become more and more like him. His love transforms us to be like him and this transformation makes us more human, not less.

In the season of Advent and beyond, remember that beholding Jesus is the first step on a path to becoming more like him. 
Let us behold him, seeing how much he loves us.
Let us obey him, letting others see how he changes us.
Let us magnify him, becoming less in our own eyes so that he can become greater.
Let us emulate him, calling others to come and see what great love the Father lavishes on those who come to him.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Open my eyes, that I may see the wonders of your law. — Psalm 119.18

Today’s Readings
Esther 6 (Listen 2:40)
1 John 3 (Listen 3:21)

Read more about Supporting Our Work
God works in the world through Christians changed by the Bible. Help us provide free biblical content with no ads and no agendas.

Read more about He Invites Us — Love of Advent
Jesus invited the repentant thief…he invited me…and he invited you. Be ready for his coming. Respond.

Of Waiting and Giving :: Hope of Advent

*Advent is a wonderful time for new readers to join us. At this time of year we are covering familiar biblical content and people are open to spiritual pursuits. Also at this time, people desperately need the balance of spiritual practice that The Park Forum provides. In this season, consider sharing our devotionals with others and inviting them to join our community. Share a link to this devotional, or this subscription link, or use the sharing links included in the sidebar to help them join us.

Scripture Focus: 1 John 3.16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Reflection: Of Waiting and Giving :: Hope of Advent
By John Tillman

Advent, which could be a pleasant time of anticipating God’s gift, has become a stressful time of accumulating other gifts. 

Rather than counting the days until the gift of Christ is given, we count the days left to purchase gifts for others. Blessing others with generosity is a good practice all year long, but consumer culture twists gift-giving into a selfish game of reciprocation. We give presents in order to get them as well.

The two practices could not have more different effects on our souls. As we count diminishing shopping days, the weighty dread of worldly expectations is piled upon us like the debt we incur through our spending. As we count diminishing days until the gift of Christ arrives, the heady joy of heavenly expectations lifts our souls, removing the debt we incur through our sin.

So do we boycott giving? By no means.

No matter how twisted our culture becomes, there are always ways to live redemptively in it. Christians have always excelled at reclaiming customs fouled by greed (or any other form of sin or idolatry) and refurbishing them with a gospel flair. 

So as you hear the trumpeting of diminishing shopping days, pushing you toward consumeristic fervor,  think of the trumpets that will announce Christ’s second advent that will bring an end to striving and selfishness.

As you purchase gifts for those dear to you, remember how dear you are to God that he would spend so recklessly to redeem you.

As you push through throngs and mobs of travelers and shoppers, remember the throngs of travelers that filled Bethlehem’s beds, pushing our outcast Savior to sleep in a manger. Think of the crowds that pressed in, hoping to hear his message. Think of the mobs who beat, spit on, and stripped him, nailing him to the cross as he fulfilled the gospel on our behalf.

And as you remember how Christ gave…give, and give, and give. What are you waiting for? 

Give to those around you, to your loved ones, and to those organizations making a difference in the world. Give to those who can’t give back. Give until the only explanation for your generosity is that Christ is giving through you.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let us make a vow to the Lord our God and keep it; let all around him bring gifts to him who is worthy to be feared. — Psalm 76.11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 3-4 (Listen -5:42) 
1 John 3 (Listen -3:21)

Thank You, Donors!
Thanks to our donors, in 2019 we will publish approximately 100,000 words of free, and ad-free, devotional content. Without donor support, continuing this ministry would be impossible. As the end of the year approaches, consider whether the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to help support our 2020 content with an end-of-year gift or by becoming a monthly donor. Follow this link to our giving page.

Read more about Hope on a Limb :: Hope of Advent
What we hope for in Advent is not a resource of earthly wealth, success, fame, and power.

Read more about supporting our work
Running an ad-free website means there is no ad revenue supporting tech expenses that come in throughout the year. End-of-year giving helps us set aside money to pay for large tech expenses whenever they may come due.