Advent 1: Introduction: God’s Gift of Love
Preface: Advent has three definitions:
- Liturgical: It is the beginning of the Church Year and marks the four-week period in which we prepare for Christmas and the celebration of the “coming” or “arrival” of God’s redeeming Messiah into the world.
Today we will light the Prophet’s candle, the first of four symbols of Advent, signifying the hope of the Messiah’s arrival.
- Eschatological: Advent is concerned with more than the first coming or incarnation of Christ, it is also concerned with the Second Coming or Parousia, in which evil is finally defeated and our redemption is made complete. We and all of creation await this revealing of the Sons of God, so that we can all (both us and creation) be freed from the futility of death (Romans 8:20-25) into an entirely different kind of universe. We now live in a fallen, dying universe, but what is coming is a living, non-decaying, non-dying universe, one not subjected to futility.
- Relational: Advent looks forward to God repairing the broken relationship with mankind and in so doing it expresses the fullness of God’s love toward us.
Today’s theme: Advent as Relational
Today, our lens will be the relational aspects of Advent showing God’s fullest expression of His Love towards us. His relationship with us, and indeed his love for all of creation, has two parts:
- The First Coming or Incarnation in which redemption was brought into the world and that redemption has begun to do its work within the redeemed to bring us back into relationship with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
- The Second Coming or Parousia in which redemption is completed but extended to all of creation as evil is vanquished and the fullness of redemption is made real. Because of this, we are brought into full and permanent relationship with God through the Son as we his bride become forever united with him in celebration at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
While it is true that those two parts are also eschatological, they are first and foremost relational, since without God’s relational desire, there would be no need for the eschatological events. But the plan, from the beginning of creation, has always been relationally centered. The eschatological and liturgical both serve the relational.
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
- “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8
- “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” 1 Corinthians 15:28
Quotes to think about:
Advent as a journey: “For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.” ― Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat.
God comes to us, not we to him: “How can God stoop lower than to come and dwell with a poor humble soul? Which is more than if he had said, such a one should dwell with him; for a beggar to live at court is not so much as the king to dwell with him in his cottage.” — William Gurnall.
Relational Expressions of Love:
Relationships: For our purpose I want to suggest that all relationships are rooted in an expression of love of which there are four primary types (from Greek) and all are expressed in relationships :
- Agape – Godly, sacrificial love. It is giving.
- Phileo/Philia – Friendship, brotherly love. It is sharing.
- Storge – Natural or familial love (parent/child, husband/wife, siblings). It is caring.
- Eros – Physical, intimate, possessive love. It is wanting/needing.
Problem: 4 vs. 1 – Greek has four words for the range of meaning vs. one word in English. So we tend to understand that single meaning as what is primary to our current cultural expression. However, that expression has changed dramatically over time and realistically should change with context but often doesn’t. Today, love in our culture takes its lead primarily from the only non-biblical Greek expression: Eros. However, there is a serious problem between #4 Eros and #1 Agape. They are the antithesis of each other. Today, we will start by looking at the issues surrounding Eros.
Eros – The Greek ἔρως is a physical, intimate, possessive love whose primary cultural usage is not found biblically. Eros is also the overwhelming cultural understanding of love today, but it is not used in the New Testament and only twice the Old Testament Septuagint Greek translation, and there it is used negatively. The first is in Proverbs 7:18, where it speaks of the enticement of a loose woman whose husband is away on business, “Come, let us take our fill of love (Philia) until morning; Let us delight ourselves with love (Eros).” This type of “love” is looked at as death where in 7:27 it says, “Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.” Eros will take you to hell and death. The second is in Proverbs 30:16, “Sheol, the barren womb (the Septuagint literally says “Hades and Eros of a woman”), the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, “Enough.” Here Eros of a woman is compared to Sheol, and it never satisfies, there is never enough. Both of these uses are very damning of Eros.
Therefore, I would argue that God does not consider Eros part of His meaning of love, but instead, the twisting and perversion of love, fallen into lust. I know this is not a popular view, especially today with many trying to redeem this interloper into the meaning of love, but it is what I argue to be true and their attempts to redeem Eros wrong.
Definition: Overwhelming desire to possess the other or thing desired. Eros sees and must have. Eros is primarily selfish and seeks its fulfillment in possession, often losing interest once possession is obtained. For our purposes, Eros can be looked at in the following ways:
- Eros is not biblical. It is never used biblically in the NT and only twice negatively in the Septuagint.
- Eros is inclusive. The object of its desire can be a person, a thing, or even a state of being. It can cover almost anything.
- Eros is fleeting. Possessing its object brings only temporary satisfaction and then there is a need to move on to something else, something new and exciting.
- Eros twists. It can be understood as twisting the marital expressions of love into possessive lust where it becomes the perversion of the natural love and affection between a husband and wife (clearly so from a biblical viewpoint).
- Eros takes. It sees worth and seeks to possess it. It is selfish and does not give back anything except the knowledge of its desire – saying that you should appreciate the fact I want you. This speaks to our fallen human need to be wanted, to be connected to something, to not be alone, seeking to fill that empty hole in that relationship, in reality with God, but instead with so many other things trying to be a substitute for that emptiness.
- Eros is like leaven. It infects everything it touches and adds the infection of selfishness to the other expressions of love and our understanding of their meaning. It corrupts everything it touches.
- Eros distorts our understanding of God. It colors our view of the biblical English text, of the biblical meaning of love, and is the root of the false view that God is a respecter of persons, seeing worth in us that He must possess.
- Eros will drive you crazy. It is like kudzu. Once it entrenches itself, it is a never-ending battle to try and contain it and clear it out of our relationships. This is especially a problem for Charismatics and Pentecostals who always have to be on guard against letting their emotions overdrive their decisions and actions. It is possible to sinfully lust after God.
- Eros is not the same as desire. Yes, there is desire in Eros, an overwhelming, sometimes uncontrollable desire. However, that is a desire that is twisted and singularly focused on possession. While the other three types of love all have a component of desire, there it serves to energize their expression, but it always maintains its proper expression, never distorting their fundamental nature.
- Eros is everywhere. Its seeds are everywhere and it is the root of almost all advertising. It says, “See, this is good; this is wonderful; don’t you want it? You need this; it will make your life so much better. You just have to have it.”
- Eros is addictive. It eventually leads down the path of addiction into an obsessive need, leading to compulsive and destructive behavior to meet that need.
- Eros is jealous. Possession breeds jealousy, since Eros says this is mine in every respect.
- Eros finds its penultimate expression in our fallen sexuality. This is the area where Eros gains its strongest foothold, corrupting the natural desire God created between a man and a woman. It is why God has always contained that desire in the marital relationship, which in its original state is the fulfillment and highest expression of the other three forms of love, intertwined and combined toward the beloved other. In the world around us, Eros is the basis of so much sin and corruption. It appears to drive so much of everything we see in the culture around us. From my perspective, all sexual sin finds its siren call in Eros. Without the need to possess, Eros falls apart and is no longer a temptation.
God’s love at its root is an expression of His relationship with us. Eros destroys relationships, debasing them into mere possession driven by lust. Eros is Satan’s failure to grasp the true meaning of God’s love in the significant forms of its expression (agape, phileo, and sturge). It is the counterfeit that Satan (and his many minions: not just the fallen heavenly beings who rebelled with him but also all his captured human agents alive around us) offers to us in their effort to capture our souls.
Assignment for This Week
Self Examination: Think about how Eros has infiltrated your life and ask God how you can begin to root it out of your expressions of His love. This is a life-long task but every journey begins with a first step, so take advantage of this opportunity to begin. Don’t let any discoveries or failures discourage you. God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. As you make this effort, expect to be surprised by how deeply your other aspects of love (agape, phileo, and sturge) will begin to express themselves once the leaven of Eros begins to be removed from your life.