1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study – Day 10

Love is Not Easily Angered

We have all had those days, those, “Momma said there’d be days like these,” days. Nothing seems to go right. The kids are cranked up to eleven. Everyone is extra sensitive, extra irritable, extra anxious, extra extra. And if you are Momma, or any grown-up human, you field it all and hang on as long as you can until that one straw hits your back.

Boom.

You explode and the debris hits everything. And everyone. Especially the ones closest to you. The ones you love.

Notice the verse here does not say, “Love does not get angry.” It says that love is not easily angered; it is slow to get angry. The more we practice a perspective of love, the more grace we can have under pressure, and the slower we are to get angry, even when someone we love treats our last nerve like a trampoline.

I kid. Sort of.

And when we lose it, we can repent before God and each other. True repentance, after all, brings us closer through humility and forgiveness.

Advent Activity: Read either Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day or My No, No, No Day to your children. Ask, “Do you ever have hard days? How do you feel on those days? How do you act when you feel that way?” Talk about ways to vent or cope with anger, such as taking a break, using a creative outlet, and taking deep breaths and praying. Explain that love causes us to be slow to get angry, and God calls us to repent when we have hurt someone in our anger.

Personal Reflection: Do an honest assessment of anger in your life. Are there triggers you can deal with to decrease you anger level? There may be things in the natural, such as lack of sleep or too many extraneous responsibilities or circumstances. There may be spiritual factors, such as resentment, hopelessness, or fear. Do what you can in the natural to relieve pressure in your life, but also spend some time in prayer, asking God to reveal and deal with the anger and its roots in your heart.

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1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study- Day 9

Love is Not Self-Seeking

Saturday mornings are known as “Dad-urday” around here. They are chocolate chip pancake mornings, snuggles on the couch and movies and the “big” TV. Daddy makes coffee, keeps the kids content, and lets Mommy sleep. It is glorious.

He doesn’t do it for a pat on the back or so that I’ll owe him one later. He does it because he loves me. He knows I need it. He wants to serve me.

When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he was not looking for a pat on the back. When he died on a cross, he did not do it for fame and glory. He did it because he loves us. He knows we need it. He wants to serve us.

Advent Activity: Be a secret do-good-er today! Make a plan to do something helpful for someone, and try not to get caught. How do you think it will feel to bless someone without blessing yourself with appreciation?

Personal Reflection: You can have the same challenge! Will you work harder knowing that your service is in secret, or will you miss the appreciation you get? Do you ever find yourself dependent on appreciation from others? How can you break that dependency?

1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study- Day 8

Love is Not Rude

I have been trying to pinpoint that mysterious moment when children go from being charming and sweet to rude and obnoxious. Do not misunderstand me: I love my children and think they have great personalities, but I recognize that somewhere along the time they start school, the crude humor, the mimicry, the unfiltered commentary, the bathroom jokes – it all flows out like a leaky faucet. Constant. Irritating. Impossible to ignore or stop.

Rudeness seems to be a natural state for humans. How much simpler is it to let the negativity fly, particularly when one is feeling low? And once it begins, rudeness is contagious. All our natural defenses want to respond in kind when someone has been rude to us.

To be rude is to put self-satisfaction above the feelings of others, and even the environment as a whole. I tell my son when he is negative and rude it is like vomiting all over the place. You may feel better in the moment, but now everyone else is a mess!

Advent Activity: Read the book Nobunny’s Perfect by Anna Dewdney. Talk about how rudeness is easy, but being polite takes practice. Have your children set a goal of creating one polite habit (using “please” and “thank you,” avoiding mean words, not shouting at people, not back-talking, etc.). They can write and/or draw a picture about their goal. Talk about how God’s love for us is never mean or rude. When He speaks to us, even in correction, it is with kindness.

Personal Reflection: How would you define “rudeness ” in adults? It is more subtle than in children! When we respond to people in rudeness, how does it hurt them? What can you put into practice to minimize rude responses to those around you?

1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study – Day 7

Love is Not Proud

One of my favorite books is Pride and Prejudice. The characters are deeply developed, and their personalities are highly relatable. As you may guess, one of the main characters, Mr. Darcy, struggles with pride. In the beginning, he boasts of his pride as natural and appropriate. In due time, however, his pride causes him heartbreak as he realizes that people dislike and distrust a prideful temperament. Spoiler alert: he humbles himself and gains love.

We often think of pride as arrogance or conceit. But at its core, pride is the wall built by the vulnerable, the hurt, and the fearful. Pride says, “I don’t need you, and I don’t want you.” Pride is a hiding place from intimacy.

And like Mr. Darcy, pride leaves us broken hearted, and leaves the people around us with a bad taste in their mouths.

Love cannot coexist with pride. Love requires intimacy. It requires us to be “naked and unashamed.”

Advent Activity: Building time! Break out the blocks – big or small, whatever you have – and have your kids build a wall. Then have them take turns hiding objects behind the wall. The others must guess what the object is by playing Twenty Questions. Then ask, “How difficult was it to know things about the object?” “Were you tempted to get frustrated and give up?” Then explain how pride keeps people from truly knowing you, like a wall. It is impossible to truly love someone you do not know.

Personal Reflection: Are you holding up a wall of pride around an area of your life? What do you need to happen to pull it down? Think of one area in your life in which you can become a more sincere and open person.

1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study- Day 6

Love Does Not Boast

We have all (well, at least most of us, I assume) were taught as children not to brag. We were taught to win and lose gracefully. We were chastised for boasting about either our accomplishments or those happy circumstances which nature bestowed upon us. I even knew a family which made a point to teach their children never even to cheer at an opposing team’s mistake in a sporting competition. That lesson stayed with me – I will not participate in the taunting chants at my beloved Predators games to this day!

But, what does that have to do with love? Not boasting is polite, of course, but love?

What is the effect of boasting, anyway? It makes me feel good. It encourages me. It pats my back. And those in earshot, who perhaps cannot say the same? Well, comparison is as natural and involuntary as breathing. When we inflate our own ego, we deflate others.

God does not love us by telling us how awesome He is. He is the Lover of our Souls! He is our encourager and friend. We love Him because He first loves us. This is our model for our earthly interactions. We show love by putting the spotlight on others and not ourselves.

Advent Activity: Give each child a balloon and have them blow it up (or do it for them if they cannot). Talk about how boasting fills us up and makes us feel big. But in reality, that filling is nothing more than “hot air.” Our gifts are all God-given and to His praise; not ours.

Personal Reflection: How can I “inflate” others today? Who do I know that might need encouragement? Make three phone calls, texts, or notes to build up those people.

1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study – Day 5

Love Does Not Envy

Are you ever dissatisfied with your lot? I know, I know, none of us would ever trade our roles as wives or mothers (or whatever other titles we might have) for anything. But sometimes, maybe just sometimes, we want to trade with the one who gets to walk out of the house and be something different for a little while; or the ones with the time to sit blithely in cafes or stroll through shops; or anyone, really, with a life different from our own. Our nature is to be always looking over the fence, focused on what we don’t have.

How much more do we see our children consumed by envy, especially this time of year. Children get busy wanting and wishing. It is easy for them to fall into the trap of focusing on what others have that they do not.

But we must recognize that envy is sin. It is the covetousness of the Ten Commandments. It is a destroyer of love. We cannot give any kind of love if we are hoarding envy in our hearts. We must begin by laying our envy at the feet of Jesus and releasing ourselves to love and be loved without contingencies. Only then can we see and love other people as people without fixating on the extras of their lives.

Advent Activity: Have children write (or draw) a different kind of Christmas list – one for someone else. Have them think of a person they love. Then, ask them to think about what that person would want for Christmas. Encourage older children to think beyond material things. Talk about how focusing on what other people need or want helps dispel envy. Be sure to pray with them over envious attitudes.

Personal Reflection: In what area does envy creep into your own heart (lifestyle, finances, family relationships, jobs, etc.)? Can you pinpoint the reason for your own dissatisfaction in that area? Ask God to give you fresh perspective on that area of your life – one of gratitude for what you have.

1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study – Day 4

Love is Kind

They say it takes a thousand words of affirmation to undo the effects of one negative statement towards a person. Many of us, too, are familiar with the studies displaying the power of positive sounds versus negative sounds over water and plants.

Kind actions, we know, are incredibly important to society. Stories of paying forward good deeds, of strangers lending a hand in a crisis – these are the things that warm our hearts and remind us all of our common humanity.

If kindness is so good, so simple, why is it increasingly rare?

Kindness requires intention and attention. Slipping into one’s oneself- our own needs, wants, and world – is natural and easy. But to both notice another person’s needs or wants and to set out to meet them takes effort.

God’s loving kindness is a gift to us. He encourages us with his Word and guides us with gentle correction when we need it. He knows our potential and our desires, and He works with them both in ways beyond our understanding.

To show kindness is to love like God – with attention and intention.

Advent Activity: Use blank Christmas cards to write a compliment or word of encouragement to each of the other children (or additional family members if needed). Be as thoughtful and sincere as possible. After exchanging cards, talk about your feelings both in giving and receiving.

Personal Reflection: How can you be more intentional in showing kindness? What goals can you set to create habits of kindness?

1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study- Day 3

Love is Patient

We have all heard the expression, “slow as Christmas.” To a child, certainly, Christmas is always forever away. My children talk about what they want all year. They want to start decorating on November first. They beg to cut links off paper countdown chain. But of course, waiting is fun when there are things to look forward to along the way.

But being patient is a different story when it means missing out. Or when it means putting someone else first. Or when it means sacrificing your agenda so someone else can succeed.

True patience is not just staying calm in a long line. In life, if often means laying down one’s needs or wants for a hours, days, even years. It means not losing hope while you wait for an answered prayer.

God has patience with us when we are in sin or disobedience or even bad attitude-ness. He waits for us to figure it out and helps us along the way.

Advent Activity: Give each child a wrapped candy. No one is allowed to eat theirs, however, until the littlest one opens and eats his/hers. (For a single child or older children, set the candy on the shelf for awhile, perhaps until another adult is present to share candy time.) No helping, just encouraging (unless it is too difficult, but only mom can help). Ask, “How does it show love for the youngest child (or other person) to wait on him/her? How does God show love in patience with us?”

Personal Reflection: How has God shown you patience in your life? How is that patience an expression of His love for you?

1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study – Day 2

God is Love

As we draw towards God this Advent, we see His attributes more clearly. The most important attribute is, I believe, love. God is not like love. God does not have love. God is Love! It is His nature! He can’t not express love in everything.

The problem is our own human corruption of love. We misunderstand it. We abuse it. We cheapen it. We do not recognize godly love because our worldly definitions do not match it.

If we can restore the correct understanding of godly love in our own hearts, we can draw closer to God and others around us. First Corinthians 13 gives us a pure and complete definition of godly love. We quote it often, but we must dig into it to fully grasp what it means to love like God.

Advent Activity: Listen to the Jars of Clay song “Love Came Down at Christmas.” Read 1 John 4:19. Ask, “Why do we love God? How does God’s love for us help us to show love to others?”

Personal Reflection: We can answer the same question! Why do we love God? How does God’s love for us help us to show love to others? Do you ever feel yourself struggling to love God? Others? What are some ways to get yourself out of the rut of apathy?

1 Corinthians 13 Advent Study – Day 1

What is Advent?

As a child raised in the church, I was familiar with the Advent season. Our family had a candle wreath with pink and purple candles, lit on appropriate Sundays. I served on the altar team as an adolescent, so I can recall the special priestly attire during December. But aside from those elements of religion, I did not really understand what Advent meant.

Advent comes from the Latin “adventus,” which means “coming towards.” It is not a fast or a celebration; it is a preparation. It is a time to prepare our hearts as God comes toward us in the form of a human, an infant, even, in humility and brotherhood. Advent is a time to draw ourselves closer to God in person and in character.

Advent Activity: Using figures from your nativity (or perhaps drawings if you do not have one), talk about the three groups of people who make a journey to receive Jesus – Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men. Who were these people? Why did they each make this journey? What challenges did they face? Why do you think God chose them to make this journey?

I like to have the kids place the figurines around the house and move them closer to the nativity “site” as Christmas approaches (we will put the baby Jesus figurine in the scene on Christmas morning).

Personal Reflection: What do we need to do to prepare for our own journey to draw closer to God? Are there things that need to be removed, restored, or refocused? How can you make plans now to avoid succumbing to the busyness and distraction if this season? Perhaps a dedication to daily prayer or worship, or setting healthy limits on time and finances. Make a list or write a goal to help you prioritize your preparation.