Sunday, December 20, 2020

A Nearer Love

I had originally named my fourth Advent candle Joy, but upon reflection, the third candle became a combination of Proclamation and Joy. This, the final candle before Christmas, will be Love.

This season, my church is going through a sermon series based on Dane Ortlund’s book, Gentle and Lowly. A few weeks ago, this quote was shared from the pulpit:

Jesus is nearer to us now, than he was to the sinners and the saints two thousand years ago.

He is closer to us now than he even was to his mother, who held him softly that first Christmas night. As a baby so small, Mary and Joseph were the ones responsible to reach out, and make sure He was safe, and secure, and ok. The shepherds reached out, wanting to see for themselves the Messiah the angels had spoken about. Simeon and Anna reached out at the temple with prophecy and blessing. The wise men came, later, and reached out with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

But now, Christ is the one who reaches out to us, in love.

Psalm 63:7-8, penned by Jesus’ ancestor David says,

Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
 I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Today’s sermon had an illustration from Ortlund’s book: a small boy holding hands with his father as he walks into the shallow end of a swimming pool. At first, the child is clinging to the father. Maybe he is a bit scared, or at least uncertain of his steps. But as the water gets deeper, the grip changes. Before long, it is the father who is holding tight. Keeping the boy safe, making sure he will not come to harm.

We were reminded that that is God’s love for us. Jesus came down, first as a baby and then as a man, in order to reach out, and take us by the hand.

In times of hardship, we don’t immediately think of God’s love. We go into survival mode. Our prayers turn to guttural cries for aid, release, and peace. But His love is there. And it is what sustains us, whether we realize it or not.

God’s love sent Jesus to earth. To a world full of sickness, and pain, fear, and regret. He did it on purpose. To provide a way for eternal nearness, salvation, hope, and grace.

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