THE SHEPHERDS’ CANDLE (Purple signifying our penitence)
“And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’”
Luke 2:15 (NASB)
The Fourth Advent Candle represents God’s sacrificial LOVE and our salvation which has been so graciously provided through the gift of His own Son, Jesus, who in LOVE gave up His life for us. It also highlights the need for man to respond to God’s gift. The shepherds remind us that it is not enough just to hear the good news of the Savior’s birth…there must also be a personal response. God has given us HOPE and PEACE by sending His Son according to His plan, but we must RESPOND in FAITH if we are to experience the true JOY of Christmas in our own hearts and lives. Christmas truly is a gift of LOVE. These are the greatest themes of the Christmas season—HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE. Have you received God’s Christmas gift of LOVE in your own heart?
“For God so loved the world that He gave…”
John 3:16 (NASB)
Advent Passage—Luke 2:15-20 (NASB) *The shepherds response to angles’ good news “When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’ 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.”
Focal Passages—1 John 4:7-19 (NASB) *The LOVE connection-God’s motive (John 3:16) “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. *11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfect- ed in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. *16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
*19 We love, because He first loved us. *Indicates key verses
John 1:9-13 (NASB) *To receive God’s gift we must respond in FAITH
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
*cf. Galatians 3:26—”For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Message Outline – Key Verses
I. The heart (motive) of Christmas – LOVE (John 3:16-18)
John 3:16 (NASB)
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
II. The true gift of Christmas – God’s “only begotten Son” (1 John 4:7-19)
1 John 4:9-10 (NASB)
“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
III. Our response to God’s gracious gift of love—FAITH (John 1:9-13)
John 1:11-12 (NASB)
“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…”
Key Words—The Christmas LOVE connection
“love” (21x in 1 John 4:7-19) Koine Greek expressed 3 “levels,” or “kinds” of love (1) eros (0x -not used in the N.T.) – a powerful “ME” love; a basic human need
cf. English “erotic” which comes from this Greek word (i.e. physical love)
(2) philia (1x noun Gk #5373 “friendship” / 25x verb Gk #5368 – see John 21:15-17) a mutual “WE” love; cf. English “Philadelphia” which is a compound word mean- ing “brotherly love” or mutual concern and companionship
(3) agape (117x noun Gk #26 / 144x verb Gk #25) – an unconditional “THEE” love – See 1 Corinthians 13:1-8; In John 21:15-17 Jesus is asking Peter if he loves” (Greek
25) Him, and Peter responds, “Lord, you know that I ‘love’ You” (Greek #5368) — probably because of his 3x denial he could not claim to “love” (Gk #26) Jesus
*Note: You can see where the emphasis is in the N.T. by the frequency of use
Conclusion—Christmas really is the gift that keeps on giving! (cf. 1 John 4:11,19) God’s supernatural love is… (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8)
- Unselfish (i.e. sacrificial or giving) – John 3:16 (NASB)
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever be- lieves in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
- Undeserved (i.e. unmerited) – Romans 5:8 (NASB)
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- Unnatural (i.e. not normal – agape love must be learned) 1 John 4:19 (NASB)
“We love, because He first loved us.” *Note: agape love is learned at the foot of the cross!
“He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”
John 1:11-12 (NASB)
Key x-References – The essential need for a personal response to the “good news”
Luke 2:15-16 (NASB) *The shepherds responded
“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened…’”
Matthew 2:1-1 (NASB) *The wise men responded
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.’”
Luke 1:41-45 (NASB) *Even Elizabeth’s unborn baby (John) responded!
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said… 43 ‘And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?
44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfill- ment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.’”
Acts 16:27-34 (excerpts NASB) *The Philippian jailer responded
“When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!’…and after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house…And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.”
Acts 16:13 (NASB) *Lydia “listened” and “responded”
“A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”
John 20:30-31 (NASB) *God’s “good news” must be believed (i.e. received) to have life “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”