Advent 4: “Love” Face-to-Face Gatherings

The lessons focus on significant words of the season. They are arranged: 1. Hope, 2. Peace, 3. Joy, and 4. Love. However, feel free to arrange them according to the Advent practices of your congregation.

Prep

Ready the videos; gather an Advent wreath with candles and matches; provide Bibles and refreshments, paper and colored pencils. Provide a pail, water, and towels.

Getting Started

Welcome all guests. Conduct a brief time for introductions of new participants.

Briefly review the scope of the study and The Bible Project. Revisit expectations regarding group dynamics, such as honoring one another with respect.

Offer an opening prayer. Light four Advent candles.

Prompt discussion: When you hear the word “love,” what comes to your mind? What feelings or memories are evoked?

Digging In

Make available paper and colored pencils and invite participants to doodle or draw as they watch the video.

Introduce the video: The word “love” is one of the sloppiest words in our language, as it primarily refers to a feeling that happens to a person. In the New Testament, “love” refers to a way of treating people that was defined by Jesus himself: seeking the well-being of others regardless of their response.

Watch the video.

Following the video, note key ideas such as the Greek word “agape,” meaning self-sacrificial love; the love of God and the love for one another are entertwined; we receive God’s love through Jesus and give it away to others. 

Invite participants to offer comments and observations on what they saw and drew. Discuss: Love is a spiritual practice and not something you fall into. It is through loving that we experience the love of God. You can’t love others until you truly love yourself and acknowledge that God loves you with a love beyond anything you can imagine.

Introduce Deuteronomy 10:17-19a. The covenant people are in the last stages of preparation before they enter the land of promise. God through Moses extols the people to make love the law of their new homeland.

Invite volunteers to read Deuteronomy 10:17-19a. The people were to be like the Lord who shows no partiality, accepts no bribes, defends the fatherless and the widows, and loves strangers and immigrants, giving them food and clothing. After all, they had been aliens in Egypt.

Discuss: What does love mean for the Lord? Why do you think love is focused on actions and behavior and not feelings? How does being like the Lord compare to the creation story where God creates human beings in the image of God? What obstacles do you face when trying to love others as God loves us?

Invite volunteers to read John 13:34-35. These words of Jesus follow the footwashing. First he shows them what it means to love one another and then tells them. What does it mean to live like Jesus in love, not just feel it or talk about it? How does loving one another show the world that we are his disciples?

Watch the video “Foot Washing” from Chuck Knows Church:

Concluding Options

1. Discuss: In Jesus’ time, servants washed the feet of others. When he knelt and washed the disciples’ feet, they were startled that Jesus would take the stance of a servant. What does that mean for us? What if, instead of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the church observed a footwashing during worship services? What would giving and submitting to foot washing in a worship service say about the way we love each other?

2. Brainstorm ways you can be signs of God’s love in the world. Choose a project to live out your commitment to love, preferably one that will outlast the Advent-Christmas seasons.

3. Wash one another’s feet. Provide a pail, water, and towels. For those squeamish about showing their feet, wash each other’s hands. Say aloud John 13:34-35 as the group participates: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Prayer

God of love, open our hearts and hands to extend your love to all the world, starting with those who are near. Thank you for sending Jesus because you so loved the world. Amen.

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