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.
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. :)
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.