First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (4th Sunday in Advent, December 18, 2022)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“The Wonders of God’s Love!”
Psalm 17:6-9; 1 John 3:1-3
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8-year-olds: “What does love mean?” The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. These are some of the children’s responses to the question: What does love mean?
Rebecca, age 8, said: “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.” Billy, age 4 said, “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” Danny, age 7, said, “Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.” Elaine, age 5 says, “Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.” Mary Ann, age 4 says, “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.” Jessica, age 8 said, “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.”
Today is the Fourth and last Sunday of Advent, the season in which we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Season of Advent takes us from hope, to peace, to joy, and this week to love. So our worship today is centered around the theme of God’s love for us. This is the solid foundation of our Christian faith. God is love. Someone said that sometimes we need “a gospel reset.” And if we are hitting that reset button, we need some kind of “truth” or “main idea” or “start screen” that sets us straight and tells us where to go. I truly believe this Forth Sunday in Advent takes us to that start screen. It takes us to the magnitude and wonders of God’s love.
If the birth of Christ tells us one thing about God, it tells us that our God is a loving God. When we failed to reach God because of our spiritual blindness, God reached out to us. When humanity failed to find God, God left His glory in heaven and came down to earth to search for us. When we couldn’t figure God out, He revealed Himself to us; he lived among us; walked down our streets; our eyes have seen Him, and our hands have touched Him. The incarnation of Jesus Christ reminds us that God absolutely loves us. So as we ponder God’s love on this Fourth Sunday of Advent, please allow me to underscore two short observations:
First: Let’s Be Assured of God’s Love
The Apostle John speaks of God’s love not as much as an attribute of God, but as part of God’s very nature. “God is love,” says 1 John 4:9. John wanted his audience to capture this transforming truth and to be assured of God’s love. He writes in 1 John 4:16, “We have known and believe the love that God has for us.” John says I’ve known this love and believe in it. I wish that you would do too.
For some people, this truth may sound elementary, it’s a Sunday School lesson. And indeed it is, but it’s also a lesson that we need to learn over and over again. In fact, when it comes to the challenges and problems we face in our lives today, a lot of it has to do with us not really knowing that God loves us; a lot of it has to do with us not grasping the love of God. How many times you’ve asked yourself if God loves me, why I am going through all these difficulties, trials, and tribulations? If God loves me, why He didn’t give me this or take away that?
John wants us to be assured of God’s love because there is security in love. There is no fear in love. “Perfect love,” says 1 John 4:18, “drives out fear.” There is hope in love. There is peace in love. There is joy in love.
Second: Let’s Remember that Love Always Involves an Action
It’s rightly said that “Love is a verb.” It always involves an action. If the Christian faith claims that God is love, how can we prove this? Well, 1 John 4:9 answers this question. “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.” John says, in Christ, God’s love is manifested, is shown, is displayed. God’s love is a person whose name is Jesus Christ.
What the apostle John says in his gospel and letters is also echoed by the apostle Paul in Romans 5, which again is super clear. In Romans 5:8 Paul says: “God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ is the most vivid display of God’s love.
If love is a verb, an action, then we, as Christ’s followers, are called to translate, to express, our love for God. God showed us His love in sending His Son, talking our human form, and dying on our behalf so that we may have life. How will do you display your love for God in the choices you make and the actions you take? Our love to God today is expressed in our commitment to the work of the kingdom; in the life of service and giving; a life of worship and generosity. Our love to God is reflected in our desire for more of Jesus in our lives. It’s reflected in our readiness to invest time, treasure, and talent for the kingdom work.
Friends, before you leave the Lord’s House today, I want you to know that you’re loved. You’re loved beyond measure. The evidence of God’s love is not the smooth sailing, but the scars on Christ’s palms. They will never fade away because they are the sign and seal of His everlasting love. We have done nothing to earn God’s love and nothing we will ever do that might cause God to stop loving us. “Show me the wonders of your great love,” prayed King David in Psalm 17:7. May this become our prayer too. May the desire to live out God’s love consume our hearts. May we never forget that love is a verb. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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