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Hope in the darkness

Editor's Note

About the author: Kurt Strueh and his wife Lynn have been members at ZPC since 2003. They have 3 children, 13, 11, and 8. Kurt works as a veterinarian and is a current ZPC Elder.

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring traditional Advent themes of hope, joy, peace, and love. 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.

TODAY'S SCRIPTURE: Romans 8:22-25

This time of year, the days are getting shorter. It is dark when I wake up. It is dark when I get to work. It is dark when I leave work. This time of year, it seems that a cold dark veil has been placed over the entire earth. Add to this darkness the added stress of shopping for Christmas gifts, the knowledge that next months credit card bills will have those added expenses on them, plus all the holiday events that seem to have us rushing from one thing to another without taking a chance to breathe. 

According to Wikipedia, “Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or world at large.” How do we have an “optimistic state of mind” – How do we have “HOPE” this time of year? 

This past week I heard a TED talk on NPR radio. Yes, my kids say I’m getting old because I listen to NPR radio on my commute to work. The speaker said he knew the SECRET TO HAPPINESS! He said the secret to happiness is having low expectations. His reasoning was if you have low expectations you are constantly being surprised. I have thought about that a lot this week. Do I have too high of expectations for co-workers, my children, my wife, myself, the staff at Menards, who was not able to place an order for cabinets and told me I would need to come back the next day when someone else could work the computer? (I digress.) I realized that this mentality is the opposite of hope. To have low or no expectations is actually hopelessness. Hopelessness does not equal happiness.

Take a moment to read Romans 8:22-25.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 

According to Charles Ellicott “hope in the future is of the very essence of the Christian life. It is by hope that we are saved.” During this time of darkness, a bright star appeared and the shepherds followed it to Bethlehem. There they found our true hope for the future. They found a way to sustain our soul during difficult times. They found the true meaning of this season. They found a baby in a manger named Jesus. Through Jesus we all have HOPE!  

During this busy crazy season, I encourage each of us to take a moment and be still. Take a moment and look into the clear dark night for a bright star. Take a moment to think about all the blessings we have. Take a moment to have HOPE for the future.

Prayer:

Lord,
During this busy season, let us take a moment and be still. Help us to see the true meaning of this season. Help us to see the hope you gave us through your son Jesus. Please help us face any feelings of despair of anxiety with the hope you give us for the future. 
Amen

Posted by Kurt Strueh with

Will everything be alright?

Editor's Note

About the author: Amanda Stricker grew up at ZPC and has been a member since 1998. She is a teacher for Indianapolis Public Schools and a current Elder here at ZPC.

About this post: This blog post is part of a series of daily devotionals where we are exploring traditional Advent themes of hope, joy, peace, and love. 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.

TODAY'S SCRIPTURE: PHILIPPIANS 1:18-26

Recently, I was snacking on a piece of chocolate, and the inside of the foil wrapper cheerfully informed me, “It will turn out alright in the end. If it is not alright, it’s not the end.”

At first, I just rolled my eyes at the trite message my chocolate was trying to teach me, but then I got righteously indignant. How dare this chocolate blithely ignore all the suffering and pain in the world? What if the person eating this piece of chocolate had lost their home or a loved one in a wildfire? What if they had a debilitating or deadly disease? What if they were filled with anxiety or depression over the uncountable awful things that constantly afflict humanity? What if, what if, what if?

But then God’s Holy Spirit tugged on the reigns of my internal rant and reminded me of the truth of the message: it WILL turn out alright in the end. For those of us who trust in Jesus, we know the end, and it is more than alright; it is glorious.  

In today’s reading, Paul is locked away in a Roman prison, awaiting a trial which could result in his torture and death. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul responds to these dire circumstances with profuse thankfulness, overflowing love, abounding joy, and unshakable confidence. Why? Paul knows that “everything that happened here has helped to spread the Good News,” and he consistently reminds his readers of Christ’s imminent return.

Paul is torn between a hope for death so that he may be in the presence of God and a hope for more time on earth so that he may continue to be fruitful in the service of God. In either case, the key word is hope, which is based on Paul’s confidence in the ultimate ending of the story: believers will be united with Christ in heaven, Christ will return, every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord, and peace and justice shall reign on earth. If we are not experiencing paradise yet, just wait, it’ll be here soon. In the meantime, while we are here in the messy middle of the story, we, like Paul, focus on bringing honor to Christ, on sharing the joy of our faith, and on hoping in the assured happy ending that approaches.

ACTIVITY:

Look up the song "What If" by Blanca and write a reflection or have a discussion about how the lyrics connect to Philippians and the message of hope. Then thank God for the time he has given you in this broken world and the ways in which he will use you to nudge the earth further away from its fallen state and closer to his perfect kingdom. Then enjoy a piece of chocolate, even if it doesn't have profound message in its wrapper. :)

PRAYER:

God,
Thank you for the fact that you have a purpose for me and created me specifically and deliberately for this exact moment in history. I am alive here and now to do your will and your work on earth. Thank you for the assurance of a happy ending, made possible through Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. Send your Holy Spirit to guard and keep my thoughts fixed on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable so that I may run this race with confidence. May every breath I take be in service and bring honor to you.

This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Amen

Posted by Amanda Stricker with

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