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008 A Practical Guide to Cultivating a Devotional Life

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First Love

December 11, 2010 — 1 Comment

Our church is going through a series for our evening Advent services on Sundays. The consistent theme through each week is Christmas movies. The other pastors and I sat down and selected some of our favorite Christmas movies.

I chose Home Alone.

Some of you might be wondering why on earth I would choose Home Alone out of the plethora of excellent Christmas movies available. In my defense, I’ve always been partial to the movie because Macaulay Culkin is just a few years older than me, and I thought that he always got to do cool stuff in the movie. Besides, John Williams composed the score. Need I say more?

In watching the movie for our Advent series, one scene particularly stood out to me. During the first twenty minutes of the movie we see the McCallister family preparing to leave on a family trip to France right before Christmas. Now when I say “McCallister family” I mean the whole McCallister family – aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and parents. The house is full the night before their departure.

It’s a crazy scene where rooms are crowded, pop gets spilled, messes are made, and siblings fight. Young Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, is sent to the attic to think about the trouble he has caused throughout the evening.

Adding to the chaos, the power goes out in the middle of the night and the family wakes up late. They all rush to the airport as quickly as possible, running to the gate. Relieved to find that they haven’t missed the plane, the McCallister parents settle down in their seats, ready for a nice family vacation.

But they forgot one little detail.

Kevin is still in the attic of the McCallister house… and now he’s home alone.

As a random side note, I have to observe that this movie is very dated because if this scenario happened today, everybody in the family would have a cell phone, and the minute Kevin’s parents realized he was still at home, they could have called a friend and had them come look after Kevin. But cell phones weren’t really around in 1990 so that’s why we have Home Alone, and Home Alone 2 for that matter. Home Alone 3 and 4 should not exist for a multitude of reasons, though…

When I think of the season of Advent, I am reminded of the beginning of Home Alone. Without fail, Advent always hits me by surprise. During November I’m usually thinking about my Thanksgiving plans, bemoaning the fact that I already see Christmas decorations in stores, and usually I’m pretty busy with tons of fall activities and programs. Thanksgiving comes, I enjoy a bit of a break for a while, and next thing I know, the first day of Advent is that coming Sunday.

To be honest, most of my thoughts are about either how the weather is already so cold, or how happy I am that the weather is still nice. I might also be stressing about what to get for Christmas presents for my family, and how hard it is having two families to think about now. Usually I’m adding more things to my Amazon wishlist and planning out how I will spend my anticipated Christmas money. While putting up Christmas lights I’m usually muttering that I wouldn’t have to be on a freezing roof with arctic wind gusts blasting my face if I were in California for Christmas.

With all of those possible thoughts and plans, I can safely say that I usually am not thinking about Advent. My mind is racing all over the place and it never stops to consider Advent.

And this is exactly how Kevin gets left home alone.

His parents get so caught up in all the little details of getting their family to the airport that they forget one of the biggest details of all – their son. There ware so many things that need to get done, that are screaming for their attention that they forget to be attentive to one of their own kids.

I am reminded of a famous passage in the Book of Revelation, that contains a letter from Jesus to the Christian church in Ephesus. This church is a very active church in a cosmopolitan city. The Ephesians have been very diligent in looking for false prophets and discerning the truth from falsehood. However, in their constant action, they have forgotten something. Jesus says in Revelation 2:4, “You have forsaken your first love.” The church in Ephesus has lost its first love, its love for Christ and its love for each other. These Christians have been so caught up in what they were doing that they have forgetting for whom they are doing it all.

During the season of Advent, I can feel just like Kevin’s parents and just like the Ephesian Christians. We have extra church services, extra giving projects, children’s programs, musicals, Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating, and bad weather all rolled up into one month. And the list could go on. For some of us we also face difficult family issues or unmet expectations as we gather together with loved ones.

As we face all of this, we often forsake our first love. We frequently forget why we are doing all of this in the first place. In response to this loss, Jesus gives us three short suggestions in the following verse – remember, repent, and do.

The first step is to remember our first love, to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas, to remember who Jesus is and what he’s done for us. Hopefully, as we remember what Jesus has done for us, we will be moved to repent, to let our hearts be transformed into something new. Only after we’ve had a change of heart can we go out and do something about it. Jesus calls us to live differently because of the love he shows us.

So here’s my challenge for us: In the midst of all the craziness we face during Advent, let’s remember our first love. Let’s seek out Jesus in some intentional ways. This might look different for each of us. That’s ok. Here are some suggestions for remembering our first love.

Spend time each day reading through one of the Gospels during Advent.

Devote 10 minutes a day to writing your prayers in a journal.

Go to a worship service that you might not normally go to.

Participate in a program that enables you to give to others in ways you normally don’t.

Practice tithing if that is something you usually don’t do.

Try setting aside an activity that takes up a lot of your time like watching TV, or reading a particular magazine.

Maybe even consider temporarily giving up something that is good so that you can have more time to reflect on Jesus’ presence in your life. Maybe stop going to one of your activities at church and spend that time with your family or in God’s word.

Wherever you are in your faith, ask God to show you how you can be intentional this season in getting to know Jesus. For some of us it might mean adding something new, and for others it might mean stripping familiar things away.

So let’s hear it. What helps you remember Jesus, your first love, in this time of Advent?