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December 20, 2020 - Preparing for the Lord's Day

preparing

Preparing for the Lord's Day

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we focus our attention on the theme of love. Love is a difficult theme to grasp since its nature eludes simple definition. One simplistic expression of love is the feeling of attraction. In this manner one might say, “I love my wife Linda, my child John, my dog Farfel, Virginia Tech football, and chocolate chip cookies.” Another simplistic expression of love’s nature is action, irrespective of emotion. Love is choosing to do what is right. Love is changing diapers, providing a secure home, cooking dinner, and funding college. This dichotomy creates an unnatural tension in the understanding and experience of love. A more satisfying view of love must account for both emotion and action.

When love is expressed merely as a positive emotion it is not manifested properly. For example, a father may feel love for his child, however, if he is not willing to sacrifice his own desires for his child’s well-being, that love is without substance. Provision, stability, time, attention, discipline, and reliability are all needed expressions of true paternal love. Emotion without action is not love. On the other hand, when love devolves into action divorced from emotion it is distasteful and sterile. To receive a duty-bound gift is unsatisfying. A father who provides food but not tenderness leaves his child alone and isolated. Love without emotion is hypocritical. Both affection and action must lie with the scope of true love.

The Lord’s perfect love is expressed in Psalm 136. His disposition of love toward his people leads to tangible results. The Hebrew word hesed (repeated twenty-six times in Psalm 136) expresses how the Lord loves his people through keeping promises. Translated as steadfast love, hesed, means love expressed through fulfilling a covenant vow. God is not a mere philosophical concept nor a mechanical process. He is a relational being who loves his creatures and acts on their behalf. He enters into a relationship with his people and then he acts to bring that love into historical reality. He makes a promise in love, and he keeps his promise as love.

The promise of Christmas is that God so loved the world that he acted to ensure the world’s salvation. The oath of love was the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. The action of love was the offering of Jesus Christ upon the cross. God is the Father who is both relationally loving and self-sacrificially providing. As Romans 5:8 says,

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV)

In Psalm 136 we will learn that love’s promise defines loves fulfillment and that love's action completes love’s affection. 

To come prepared for worship take time this week to read and meditate upon Psalm 136, Genesis 12:1-3, Jeremiah 33:10-11, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:3-5, 1 John 4:9-10, and this article on God’s covenant-keeping love.

As we gather this fourth Sunday of Advent, we will join our hearts in song, singing the Hymn of Praise “What Child is This?, the Acclamation of Praise “Silent Night,” and the Hymn of Response “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.”  During the Prelude, Grayson Laughon will play the violin, "O Holy Night". In the Anthem for Preparation for the Word (11:00), the Chapel Choir will sing, "Away in a Manger." In the Offertory Anthem, The Sanctuary Choir will sing (8:00), "When Stars Shine Down" and Grayson Laughon will play the violin (11:00), "The First Noel." 

Let us come to worship this Sunday prepared to hear God’s Word, to receive it in faith, to love and treasure it in our hearts, and to practice it in our lives that we may continue to glorify and enjoy Him!

Sermon Information: 

Text: Psalm 136 

Title: Waiting with Love

Outline: 

  1. Every Christian Must Give Thanks for the Lord’s Steadfast Love (vv. 1-3)
  2. Every Christian Must be Confronted with the Lord’s Steadfast Love in Creation (vv. 4-9)
  3. Every Christian Must Trust in the Lord’s Steadfast Love in Redemption (vv. 10-26)

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