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Monday, Dec 11 | A puzzling mystery

Editor's Note

About the author: 
Jim and his wife Susie have been involved at ZPC for more than 16 years. They have a son, Jack, a sophomore at Carmel High School and a daughter, Jessica, a 7th grader at Creekside Middle School. Jim is a former Elder and is active with VBS, the KY mission trip and Great Banquet. 

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring traditional Advent themes of waiting, mystery, redemption, and incarnation. To sign up to receive text notification of these posts, text zpc advent to 39970. Advent booklets are also available at the ZPC Welcome Center. We welcome your comments and questions each day.

Mystery | Philippians 1:3-14

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters,having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.
Philippians 1:3-14

A few weeks ago, I received a single puzzle piece at the conclusion of the church service. It reminded me of a conversation I led during a children's sermon a number of years ago.

"How do you typically start building a jigsaw puzzle?" I asked.
After some prompting, the general consensus was "with the edge pieces." Why?
"Because we know what they look like. They have flat edges," came the reply. 

Puzzles often get much harder from there, and so we open the box for the instructions...wait, there aren't any. Only more puzzle pieces. The closest thing to instructions for a jigsaw puzzle is the box top itself or rather, the picture of the FINAL PRODUCT. The box top is really helpful, some would say crucial, to finishing a puzzle. 

The box top gives us something we desperately need. Context. Having a single puzzle piece doesn't give you the big picture of what you're attempting to complete.

The problem is, in life, we don't have a box top, so we don't have the big picture. We don't know what the final product is supposed to look like. 

And sometimes, we feel like that single puzzle piece with little context. It's a mystery to understand how our pieces fit with one another.

Only God has an eternal view of how the pieces are meant to fit together. 

When Paul was writing his numerous letters to various churches from his jail cell, there must have been moments where he wondered "how does this piece fit into my puzzle?" But rather than be overwhelmed by the mystery of what would happen next (or if/how his pieces would fit neatly together), he instead continued to write with thanksgiving in his heart. His love letter to the Philippians reflects his joy of the Christian life and his confidence of God's love and work that was occurring in their lives. 

So, during this season of waiting, don't let the mystery of "how/where your puzzle piece fits" distract you from the knowledge that God's plan is at work, and you're part of it. One day, we'll all see the box top...but for now, be content in knowing that in his plan, you've been uniquely designed to be the perfect fit. 

ACTIVITY

Grab a jigsaw puzzle with the family and without looking at the box top, construct the outer edge. In some ways, it should be simple but it might prove to be difficult. Talk about the value of the box top!

PRAYER

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for having a plan for our lives. Give us patience and peace as your plan is revealed to us. Let us not forget that you've crafted us in a wonderful and deliberate way to affect the lives of others for the benefit of your kingdom. 

In Jesus name,

Amen

Posted by Jim Martin with

Sunday, Dec 10 | The mystery of God's love

Editor's Note

About the author:
 Don and his wife Wendy and their children Kira and Josh have been at ZPC for several years. Don serves as ZPC's director of worship.

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring traditional Advent themes of waiting, mystery, redemption, and incarnation. To sign up to receive text notification of these posts, text zpc advent to 39970. Advent booklets are also available at the ZPC Welcome Center. We welcome your comments and questions each day.

Mystery | Colossians 2:2-3; Luke 1:46-55

The Story of Advent reminds us that God enters our chaos and certain doom to save and redeem us – to restore life together with him through his son Jesus. Why would he do this?

Prophets foretell of his saving love coming with stunning accuracy hundreds of years before the night of Jesus’ birth and yet we look in bewilderment at the mystery surrounding this infant who comes to make all things new and right. How could a baby possibly accomplish
all that has been promised? Even in the miracle of being Jesus’ mother, Mary begs the question, “How can this be?!”

God has said all along that he loves us. He promises himself to us; he claims us to be his people and he provides all that we need. When we turn our backs on him, he waits for us to return, welcoming us with open arms. And because our sin is too much for us to bear he came down to be with us; to personally make right all that we make wrong. He wants us to know him as more than a distant God but instead, in the person Jesus, a personal, loving God. Read Colossians 2:2-3.

Even the way God came to earth helps us understand the mystery of his love. Our God and King, our Savior and Lord came to us in the dead of night, as a baby born in a manger to a young girl, surrounded by animals and peasants. His love is gentle and kind. It is gracious and abundant. It brings peace in a most humble and mysteriously unceremonious way. God’s love for us is mysterious because it’s a love we didn’t earn though he gives it freely. It’s a love that frees us because it conquers our fear. It’s a love that saves us because with it we can live forever with him.

Perhaps it is possible to best understand the mystery of God’s love reflecting on Mary’s response to it. Shortly after her initial astonishment and fear, face to face with the angel messenger, Mary finds peace and encouragement responding to this mysterious love with faithfulness and worship. Read Luke 1:46-55.

The best way to understand the mystery of God’s love is to give your life to it. Let God’s love lead you every day. Be filled with it and prayerfully seek out all that your loving, heavenly Father has for you. Let it encourage you and share it to encourage others.

Suggested Activities

  • A hand written letter encouraging a friend or family member can be very meaningful. Think of someone who needs to be reminded of God’s love and take a few minutes to share his love and encouragement by writing that person a letter.
  • As a family, go back and read Luke 1:46-55. Find the words and phrases that inspire you. Copy those words and phrases onto strips of colored paper and create a garland/chain of worship to hang on your Christmas tree or somewhere in the house, to remind you to let God’s love lead you every day.

Prayer

Heavenly Father,

You have blessed us with your love and with a new life in your son Jesus. You have done such great things for us. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for your son Jesus and his examples of love for your people and his faithfulness to you. Fill us with your love each day that our lives may reflect the joy of your love, as we share it with others.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

Posted by Don Nieman with

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