Skip to content
Dec 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Second Sunday of Advent: Love -12/10/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Karyn Jones

The LORD be with you:

This week’s advent candle represents LOVE.  A couple weeks ago I was at a memorial service and during the photo slideshow, the background song “What the World Needs Now, is Love Sweet Love” came up. Because of all the turmoil that was going on in the world (and still is), especially the conflicts in Israel and Gaza, this song really hit me. I remember thinking, “YES”, this is the answer.  There was this simple moment of clarity and peace. The world truly needs LOVE. “Love is the Answer” And  If we could all just act in love, the entire world could be at peace. (so simple, right?  haha)

A few weeks back in Lectio, the phrase that spoke to me was “believe my works” (from John 10:38) As I pondered these words, what I was hearing Jesus say instead was “believe my LOVE”.  Works are often the fruit or acts of a person’s LOVE. When God sent Jesus into this world, he was sending LOVE.  John 3:16 tells us “For God so LOVED the world, that he sent his only son . . . .”

So, how do we practice LOVE this holiday season (and always).  It’s not like it comes easily and we just spew out rainbows and sunshine everywhere we go.  It can be hard!  But for me, remembering Jesus’ words “Believe my LOVE”, reminding myself of his infinite LOVE for me, helps me to “BE his LOVE”.  Words can be powerful, but showing love by our actions/our works can be more powerful.  Anything from a smile, to a hello, to just listening to a person share their story.  

Once a month, a few of us from Reflexion do something called “Laundry Love”, which is where we go to the local laundromat and pay for the laundry of people in need (a ministry Reflexion supports). What has struck me the most isn’t so much the appreciation that their laundry is getting paid for (though they are), but that they have someone to talk to. We have made connections with many of the regulars, and they feel comfortable sharing their stories–their heartaches and struggles, as well as when good things happen.   

BEING God’s love to others is truly the only part we can play in making this weary world a little better. 

Will you pray with me?

LORD- thank you for Jesus.  Thank you for loving us so much that you would send your only son in the form of a precious little baby. Open our hearts to however you want to present your LOVE to us today. May we feel the immense, incomprehensible love you have FOR us, so that this week, we can go out and BE your love to others. Bless this weary world and all those who are in conflict. And encourage those who are out there on the front lines, being your love.  Allow us today, to take a breath, a pause, and trust that one day there will be “Peace on Earth, Good Will toward men”

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: The Christmas story is compressed into a few pages in New Testament

For instance, no sooner do the birth announcements arrive than the babies are born
– first John and then Jesus
• in Luke chapter 2 Jesus is born, and by end of the chapter he’s already twelve years old
◦ though the magi are often pictured alongside the shepherds at the stable,
◦ when they actually arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus was already two years old
• through all the personal and political movement going on during this time,
◦ a variety of human emotions surface
– shame was a factor and fear was frequently present or assuaged
• more than once, someone was troubled, and Herod was furious
◦ but there is also joy and rejoicing, and people are blessed
• but in all these alternating feelings and emotions, there is no mention of LOVE!
– the main characters in the story are husbands and wives, facing challenges together
• they were two couples, blessed with miraculous pregnancies and births
• and still, there is no mention of LOVE

So how did we get an Advent Sunday whose theme is love?
– we have to look elsewhere in the New Testament to find that Christmas theme
• and especially in the writings of John
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. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which we are forgiven.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
We love because he first loved us
(1 Jn. 4:9-10, 16, and 19)

One Sunday early in October, Ed Piorek came and spoke to us

His talk was about God’s love – do you remember?
– it wasn’t like he was teaching or preaching, but more like he was opening his heart,
• and allowing the thoughts to flow out of him
• since then, I read his book, The Eclectic Contemplative
– just the title resonated with my own experience
• to be fully devoted to a life of contemplative spirituality,
◦ we would have to live in monastery or convent
• for us normal folks, our spirituality must be a blending of contemplative practice and active participation in daily duties
Ed Piorek, “If there is one thing that I have become more aware of in recent years, it is how big the love of God is. Although I can’t quite get my mind around the magnitude of this love, somehow my heart is becoming more and more aware of it through contemplation. It seems that once my heart was secured in the Father’s love, I was freed from frenzied efforts to earn love, and from a newfound place of calm I embarked on a great spiritual exploration of what I now call ‘Big Love.’ . . . It was this Big Love that inaugurated the Creation of all things, both in heaven and on earth, and is actively redeeming it from its fallen state.”
“Paul prays for the Ephesian believers to fully experience the Big Love of God. A love that flows out of the Father’s riches, is appropriated by faith in Christ, and is empowered by the Spirit. . . . This love that permeates the very universe itself, this profound mystery of the vastness of love is somehow understood by the soul that searches for it in contemplation. Making this heart connection has beautiful and profound results.”

This is Advent love

God’s infinite love, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger
– Christmas is the incarnation of love – love made flesh
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son (Jn. 3:16)
• now that Jesus has come and revealed the love of the Father, God has never turned off the tap
. . . God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Ro. 5:5)
– Christmas is our reminder of God’s infinite and eternal love
• that love enters our lives, then moves outward to others
• at least, that is what is supposed to happen
(In the 1960’s Dionne Warwick sang, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” Here in 2023, that is what the Church needs!)

The season of Advent was put on the calendar in the 4th century

Initially, it was observed like the season of Lent, with prayer and fasting
– people used that time prepared spiritually themselves to observe the arrival of Jesus–past, present, and future
• they did this in the same way that the forty days of Lent prepared them to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus
• from the 17th to 19th centuries, the observance of Advent began to shift: from holy days to holidays
• it was in 20th century that Christmas became totally commercialized
– now, like archeologists, we have to di g through all the ornaments and colored lights to find the Christ child
• some of us have memories of people being extra polite around Christmas time
◦ extra friendly and nice to their neighbors and strangers
◦ now we expect crowded malls, frenetic freeways, and a large assortment of worries
(especially over gifting and debt)

It took our modern era to commodify Christmas and create The Holiday Blues
– there shouldn’t be any such thing as Holiday Blues
– the Advent themes are Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace
• perhaps now, we need not so much to celebrate them,
• as to work to recover the reality of these Christmas gifts and live in them

I read a love story this week in the Gospel According to Luke

Jesus had performed a notable miracle–he raised a dead boy to life
– Luke says that those present,
glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” (Lk. 7:16)
• sometime later, a Pharisee whose name was Simon invited Jesus into his home
• perhaps he heard what the crowd had proclaimed and wanted to see for himself,
◦ whether Jesus was a prophet
– you remember, Pharisees were those rigid, uptight believers
• for them, everything was by the book
◦ they had a long list of rules – and made many more rules about their rules
• while sitting at table together, a woman entered the house
◦ she was a local, and Simon recognized her for her rotten reputation
– at first, she stood behind Jesus and started weeping
• when her tears fell on his feet, she let down her hair to dry his feet
◦ then she started kissing his feet
◦ she brought with her a jar of scented oil, which she opened and poured over Jesus’ feet
• this woman’s public display offended and displeased Simon
◦ he started thinking to himself,
“If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” (Lk. 7:39)
Then they had a conversation that went like this:
Jesus: Simon, I have something to tell you
Simon: Tell me, Teacher
Jesus: There were two debtors who both owed money to a creditor; one owed five hundred dollars ad the other owed fifty dollars, but neither one of them was able to pay off the debt. So the lender cancelled both debts. Which of those two debtors will love the lender more.
Simon: The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt
Jesus: Do you see this woman? (Of course we know that Simon did see her.) When I came in, you did not show the common curtesy to give me water to wash my feet, but she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You did not greet me with a kiss, but she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with scented oil. So I am telling you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little loves little.” (Lk. 7:47)

In the story Jesus told, there was a real difference between debtors
– but between Simon and the woman, there was only a perceived difference
• we have no idea how great Simon’s sins actually were
◦ we know that Jesus took a dim view of self-righteousness and judgmental attitudes
• in light of Jesus’ ministry, Simon’s need was as great as hers
◦ but Simon didn’t think he needed much forgiveness
◦ in fact, Simon didn’t even know that he needed Jesus
• do I know how much I need forgiveness?
◦ if so, I can sense how great God’s love for me must be
◦ how could I not love Jesus, who loves and accepts me as I am? Who forgives my many sins

As I read this story, I was stung by something in it
– Jesus compares forgiveness to cancelling debts
• I think I’ve forgiven people, but have I cancelled their debt?
◦ or, in the back of my mind, do I still think they owe me?
• if God’s Big Love embraces me, if it permeates me, cancelling debts will be one of the ways I love others
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 Jn. 4:7-8)

Conclusion: In their last evening together, Jesus told his disciples, “the Father himself loves you” (Jn. 16:27).

Ed Piorek says that God internalizes this truth in contemplative prayer
That our heart receives what our minds cannot comprehend
If that is so, then the Father’s Big Love truly can transform our lives

I have a friend with whom I’ve been meeting for several years
For the last two or three years I’ve been visiting him in his home
Whenever I’m there, his Bible is always on a stand next to his chair
Each time I’m there, he picks it up and says, “Chuck, I love the Bible”
Then he asks, “What’s your favorite verse?” (It’s always a different verse for me)
He says, “Mine is in 1 Corinthians 13” – and he reads:
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13)


Leave a comment
  1. Cindy Yamada / Dec 11 2023

    Hi Chuck!

    Wow! I feel like I am home again, listening to your podcast. So nice to listen to your podcasts!

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Dec 11 2023

    Hi Cindy,

    Welcome back. 🙂

Leave a comment