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Thursday, Dec 14 | Embracing the mystery

Editor's Note

About the author: 
Angela Bourff is a 2nd grade elementary teacher in Zionsville. She has been attending ZPC since 2005 and became a member in 2011. Angela serves as a Deacon and as the ZPC Wedding Coordinator. She has 2 dogs she adores as well as a nephew and 2 nieces (with 1 more on the way!).

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 | Luke 2:15-20

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Being a public elementary school teacher brings a steady dose of mystery pretty daily in my life. Will everyone remember their homework? Will this group understand how to tell time as quickly as last year’s class? What will I do to make sure we are focused on learning, rather than singing and dancing around the room, just in case an administrator decides to “pop in” to see what we are doing? How will I make sure I am shining God’s light each and every day without being able to shout across the room about all of God’s Grace? 

I often think about what it would be like to have a career with less mystery. A position that has the same routine day in and day out. I just can’t see myself in a field without any mystery waiting for me as soon as I wake each morning. I think having a “mystery” facing me, is how God made me to be able to act quickly on my feet, to problem solve, and even to make every day a new adventure. 

As we continue in the Advent season, I have been pondering a few of the mysteries that may have surrounded the arrival of a baby that was sent to save us all. So many mysteries were occurring with the anticipation of Jesus’ arrival. I imagine Mary and Joseph were overcome with the “mystery” of why they were chosen to raise the baby? Yet we don’t hear of their hesitation to stop and think about it.  They put their trust in God and became a very significant part of history. The shepherds were surely thinking what a “mystery” that our savior had been born in a manger? But did they stop to question each other and discuss amongst their flock this peculiar place to have a baby? According to the Bible, “When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph.  And there was the baby, lying in the manger.” Luke 2:15-16  Even King Herod was trying to solve the “mystery” of where the Messiah was to be born “Then he told them [the wise men], “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” Matthew 2:7-8  While each of these mysteries, and so many more, were taking place, the only thing the people could do was to wait for the mystery to unfold. They could no more solve the mystery in their lives than I can each morning when I awake. 

Among all the mysteries of the world, both present day and so long ago, God has the mystery already solved. He has the clues for us and he knows the ending as well. As much as we want the mysteries in our lives to be revealed, we must wait for Gods’ timing. Whether during Advent, or any other time of year, having to wait gives us the time to embrace the mystery. Instead of being frustrated or rushed, we can rejoice in the longing and look forward to the presence of God among us. We can recall any of the mysteries that God has played a part in and know that through them all, he loved us. We can trust in the fact that God has the answer to the mystery before we even realize there is a mystery to be solved. God has loved us long before we realized there were mysteries all around and he will love us long after all the mysteries have been revealed.     


Dear Heavenly Father,

During this exciting time of year, help us to embrace each of the mysteries you give us. While we stand in long lines, wait in crowded parking lots, and busily prepare for time with family, help us remember to not become frustrated, but instead to rejoice and look forward to celebrating the most amazing gift we could ever be given. Thank you God for your son, Jesus, and for the greatest mystery we can ever be given, when he will return again.


Posted by Angela Bourff with

Wednesday, Dec 13 | An invitation from the incarnate

Editor's Note
About the author: Stan is a pastor to pastors, a writer, a lover of Malawi, and a ZPC attender and choir member. He and his wife, Mary, have three grown children and seven grandchildren. 
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 | 1 Corinthians 1:23-25

When I was a child – and when I relive that childhood – Christmas-time was wondrous albeit veiled with mystery. Without question, the lights, the scents, the foods, and the wrapped presents were a wonder; but equally, and somehow touching if not eluding these was the sense that something secretive, something mysterious was present, or soon to be present. Was it in the air? Was it a look? Was it a hug – or perhaps the clear, crisp, night sky? What was it – what is it?

Within the New Testament, the Greek word μυστήριον, becomes for us in English a near-transliteration: mystery; and this Greek word can mean: “(God’s) secret”, or “that which transcends normal understanding, transcendent/ultimate reality”.[1] Furthermore, this word occurs twenty-five times within the New Testament, but almost exclusively within the Pauline corpus, for instance in 1Corinthians 2:1-2 where Paul wrote:

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Surely Christ crucified – the Son of God crucified (and yes, risen) – “transcends normal understanding”, and yet it is fully consistent with Paul’s thought, which precedes these two verses; for he had just written of an apparently topsy-turvy, transcendent world:

[We] proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the   wisdom of God. For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:23-25)

For Paul, Christ crucified is foolishness to Greek, Western, logically philosophical minds – and yet it transcends such minds: there is something more, something beyond; for Paul, Christ crucified is morally repugnant to Jewish, Eastern, moral thought and action – and yet it transcends these. Paul did not shy away from mystery: the Gospel was/is not irrational, neither is it ethically bankrupt; rather it transcends any and all human constructs, those that are philosophical and those that are religious.

This transcendence Dietrich Bonhoeffer captured well when he wrote:

“No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle in Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders, that God became [human] . . . Theologia sacra arises from those on bended knees who do homage to the mystery of the divine child in the stall … Without the holy night there is no theology.”[2]

Without question, if Jesus Christ is not the Crucified and Risen One, then we would know nothing of Advent and Christmas; but because he is, then wonder of wonders, as Bonhoeffer suggested, the Incarnation invites us into the mystery of God, neither to resolve nor to define it, but with praise to thrill with wonder. This Advent, may it be so for you and me.


Bundle warmly, and then stand quietly for ten minutes beneath a December, night sky (hopefully a clear, star-studded night). As you stand, ponder afresh: perhaps on such a night, God-Incarnate entered into our world – and remains, inviting us into His world, transcending thought and experience. And as you stand, share your wonder with him (even if your teeth chatter and your fingers grow numb).


Gracious Lord,

This Advent and Christmas, may we thrill with wonder and delight – not with all the sights and sounds and scents, which abound, but instead, as your Children, may we enter your Kingdom via a stable door. In you may we find the “mystery of the Kingdom of God”; in you may we find the only real and transcendent wisdom and righteousness, which makes of any other cheap tinsel. In you may we behold the Christmas glory of your Cross.

Humbly we ask in your Name.



[1] A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2000) pp. 661-662.

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom, eds. Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson, (New York: Harper-Collins Publishers, 1995), p. 448.

Posted by Stan Johnson with

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