I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

John 17:20-23

Unity may not seem like the most obvious theme for the Advent season. When we think of Advent, we think of words like longing, joy, hope, light and peace. We all believe that unity is an important thing, but why focus on this in the season of advent? And what kind of unity are we talking about?

In Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer that we just read he is praying for his disciples (soon to become His church), that they would be unified. It’s all over this passage. Jesus prays that his followers would be one, just as He and the Father are one (verses 21 and 22). But there is a particular reason for why Jesus wants the church to be unified. Their “oneness” is not just for their own sake but for the sake of the world that does not yet know Jesus. At two different points Jesus prays that his followers would be one “so that the world may know that you have sent me” (verses 21 and 23). Now there is an Advent theme: The Father has sent the Son into the world. In fact, Advent is centered on the reality that in Jesus Christ, God has entered our broken world.

At River West Church we desire that in this Christmas season many would come to see and believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is the Savior of the world. This is what a Living Church longs to see happen. Perhaps as you read this you are thinking of someone in your family or neighborhood or school that you want to see come to believe in Jesus. Jesus is telling us one of the key ways that the world will come to believe in Him is through the unity of His Church. Jesus is saying that as we express the unity that we have in Christ that people will begin to say, “I can see that Jesus is real because of the way this community loves each other!” I love the way John puts it in verse 23 as he talks about the purpose of unity being:

“…that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

The world needs to know the love of God in Christ. This is the good news of the Gospel, but we can often forget that the world will see and experience the love of God by seeing it on display in the community of Christ.

  • Come to our Sunday worship services (or community group, Bible study, Christmas party, etc.) with a desire to express the unity of the Community of Christ. Ask God to show you how you can build unity as you interact with, serve with, and pray with other followers of Jesus that are in your life.
  • Invite someone (or more than one person) to church this Advent season. But invite them believing that when they see the way we love each other, that they will come to believe that Jesus is real and that the God of the universe loves them.