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Unshakable hope = unspeakable joy

Editor's Note

About the author: Brian and Cynthia are active members at ZPC and have 3 grown children; Zach, Jacob, and Hannah. Additionally, two new children have been added to our fold this year, Dhamar and Sophey. We are deeply thankful for the opportunity to worship and be in relationship with all of the people at ZPC; it is home for us.

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: Psalm 126

When I received the request to do this devotional on joy I was pretty far away from joy and thought it might be really good for me to ruminate on it. You see, we have been gifted with two bonus daughters this year….AFTER empty nesting for 3 years. As excited and nervous as we are to be able to pour into these two young women’s lives, it is not without its challenges. We know it is God’s will, which keeps us taking the next step.

As we move into this hectic season we are discovering yet another layer of emotional healing for us to embark on with them. One of the new daughters has such a highly fantasized view of Christmas that there is no way for us to match it, and the other one hates Christmas…think Grinch before his heart grew three sizes.

And then I read Psalm 126.

“When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter 
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, LORD,
like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them."

The third verse tells us that the source of this joy is PAST TENSE, they already had received it. For the Israelites joy came in the recounting of all that God had already done for them. Rescue after rescue...provision after provision. But that was only a foreshadowing of the greatest gift ever, the gift of a baby, the gift of redemption in Jesus. For us, ALL OF US, that source of joy has already been given as well. It is immediately available to us.

Chris Tomlin has a version of Joy to the World that includes the lyrics “Unspeakable Joy.” This is the gift of God; unspeakable joy. It is not found in the most festive tree. It is not found in the most expensive present, or the most beautiful church service. Believe it our not, it’s not even found in an argument-free holiday get together with the entire family. No, that joy is found in the person of Jesus. It is found in knowing that no matter what, God sent that baby for us. It is found in unshakeable hope. 

It will be incumbent on my wife Cynthia and myself to help Dhamar and Sophey, and all people we encounter, see the source of our joy. We need to let others see that our unshakable hope has begotten unspeakable joy. Then maybe all of our hearts can grow three sizes larger.

Activity:

Take five minutes. Just. Five. Minutes. To think about all that God has done in your life and especially that Jesus brings us unshakable hope and unspeakable joy, no matter what.

Prayer:

Thank you Lord for this opportunity to ruminate on joy. I ask now that you would help us all to live in that hope rooted in Jesus, that it would become contagious and that all around us would be drawn to the true source of joy they see in us. 

And all of Gods people said,

AMEN!

Posted by Brian McCall with

God keeps his promises

Editor's Note

About the author: Amy Crispin is the director of children's ministries at ZPC. She partners with parents at ZPC to create a great experience for ZPC kids in grades 1-4. She has served at ZPC since 2006, but has been attending ZPC since 2002! Amy is married to Matt and they have 4 kids: Natalie, Tommy, Charlie, and Andy.

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: Malachi 3:1-4

Read: Malachi 3:1-4
Say: "The name Malachi means my messenger.”

God had a message for his people. Malachi reminded the people that God loved them. The Jewish people were surprised at Malachi’s message because they said, “How have you loved us?” We don’t know why the Jewish people felt like God didn’t love them. Maybe they felt like God didn’t love them because the Messiah had not come and the promises of peace and God’s blessing were not happening.

God loved his people and was very disappointed that they thought he didn’t love them. They had seen God’s power, protection, and his faithfulness to keep his promises. God always keeps his promises and never stops loving his people. God was working out his plan to send the Messiah who would rescue his people.

The Jewish people had seen God keep his promise to allow them to return to Jerusalem after 70 years of being in Babylon. He helped them rebuild the temple and the walls were rebuilt in 52 days. However, they returned to wicked, sinful behavior.

Before Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins, the Jewish people were to worship God at the temple and bring sacrifices. The sacrifices and worship at the temple were pictures pointing them to Jesus who would be the perfect sacrifice. Malachi told the people that God was going to send a messenger who would prepare the way before him.

You and I know that God kept his promise to his people to send the Messiah. The Jews thought the Messiah would set up a kingdom and rule the land. We learned in Zechariah that the Messiah would come first as a humble servant. (Zech. 9:9) Jesus came first to rescue us from our sins. He is the perfect sacrifice who shed his blood to take away all our sins. (John 1:29

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Activity:

Make a Christmas Card telling of the birth of Jesus.

  • Find the story of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 2:1-20) and print on the computer.
  • Take a piece of cardstock and fold it in half.
  • Tear the story into 7 pieces, each piece a little shorter than the next so they stack on top of each other to look like a pine tree.
  • Find a star sticker or make one from paper by drawing two triangles on top of each other, one of them upside down.
  • Glue the seven pieces of paper starting with the smallest on top, finishing with the longest on bottom.
  • Tear one more piece of paper for the trunk
  • Glue the trunk on the bottom and the star on the top of the tree. 
  • On the inside, you get to be a messenger of the Good News! Tell your friend about Jesus and what he has done for us. Tell them his birthday is soon! Ask them if they’d like to celebrate with you. Maybe you could bring them to church or invite them over for snacks and games.
  • Mail your letter and don’t forget to put a return address. Maybe they’ll write you back!

Prayer:

Dear God,

Thank you for keeping your promises. Thank you for sending your son Jesus to save me. Thank you for loving me.

Help me to share with other people why I love you.

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

Posted by Amy Crispin with

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