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No greater love

Editor's Note

About the author: Liz Todd has been a member of ZPC since 1987. She has served on the Board of Deacons as well as two terms as a ZPC Elder. She has also sung in the ZPC choir since its inception, taught adult Sunday school, and been a part of The Great Banquet. She states "My greatest achievement, of course, is that I accepted the Lord Jesus as my Savior some 42 years ago."

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: LUKE 2:1-20

As a child my favorite hymn was Away in a Manger. I probably did not know too many hymns at that young age, but this one stuck out to me. I would ask my mother during months other than December, “When are we going to sing that hymn again?” I now understand it was only sung at Christmas and not throughout the year. Yet the message of this birth carries us to the end of our lives on Earth and into our next life in heaven. We will be with him, surrounded by the love of God because of a baby in a manger.

This gift of God, sending us a baby, was the beginning of his physical act of love in the form of a man so we could understand. We know from Old Testament scripture that the world would receive a Messiah, a Savior who would save us from our sin. Now the time has come to start this “love walk” with our Messiah Jesus. Now, I understand that this baby was to become the answer to all the sins and hurts the world throws at us. We are to grow up in Christ just as he grew into a man, so he could save those who turned to him. It starts in Bethlehem beside the manger of the baby Jesus and ends at the cross on Calvary.

How interesting that the Shepherds were the first ones to visit and worship this child. Those who sacrificially looked after their sheep are an example of how Jesus lovingly and unconditionally becomes our shepherd. He rescues, comforts, leads, guides, teaches, and most of all loves us no matter our condition. There is no greater love than this.

WOW and backwards WOW! What a gift the world has received. This baby truly has come through the Father’s unconditional love to us, the sheep, who have lost their way. No other religion even mentions the word love, which we are given unconditionally, through this amazing birth. 

Who can we invite to participate in this holy birth?

Prayer:

Father,

Thank you for this unfathomable gift of love that only requires us to say:  “yes, I believe and accept this baby as my Savior.” Let us hurry to his manger, as the shepherds did, so we too can worship and wonder at his birth. May this Christmas bring great joy and love as we accept what you have given us in the Christ Child.

Posted by Liz Todd with

God shows his love

Editor's Note

About the author: Elia Mrakovich started as ZPC's director of next generation ministries this spring. He and his wife Erin have one son, Rowan.

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: Zephaniah 3:14-20

Main Idea: God shows his love by maintaining the best parts of who we are and nurturing the rest of us into life giving beings.

Take a moment to read Zephaniah 3:14-20 and write down one or two ideas that seem to be repeated within the reading.

I was greatly encouraged reading today’s scripture, to the point of joy. It is clear to see that redemption, protection, and love are key to what God is communicating through Zephaniah. If you have time I encourage you to read all of Zephaniah (It’s a short book!). This prophecy, this poem, this message is written during the reign of one of the few very good kings of Israel; his name is Josiah.

Josiah, the boy king, was given the throne at the age of 8. While he was 16, he began to pursue God. Josiah wondered who God was and where he had gone. During the previous 85 or so years the Israelites had been serving idols–often worshiping Baal or the Asherah poles. Two different kings had encouraged this lifestyle. Josiah, however, eventually destroyed all the idols, and renewed the nation’s covenant with God.

Painfully this was ineffective, Josiah would go on to die in a battle caused only by his pride, and the nation would descend once again into turmoil until Babylon came and exiled the people of Israel.

What a great devotional on love, right?! While it may not seem that way at first, Zephaniah balances two major ideas: justice and love. The justice of God’s wrath brought to the enemies of Israel and the cultural leaders of Israel at the time is aggressive and without mercy. The love of God seen in the latter portion of the book is offered to “the remnant of Israel” or those that despite the culture did not turn from God, but continued to live with integrity and grace. This remnant will not be condemned because of the nation’s failure, and will not be saved because of the kings’ reforms. They will be save through the ferocious love that God has for the people that yearn to be free of the oppressors in this world.

Zephaniah goes onto to describe the Messiah, the one who comes to live among us, to be apart of life with us, our sufferings, our joys, the savior who would sing songs with us and recite poetry alongside us. The God, the Divine, Emmanuel, who would not condemn his people but instead purify them, and participate with them. God does not save the whole of us, he prunes the dead parts and nourishes the living, he accentuates the life giving parts of us and replicates those characteristics into every area of our lives.

Activity:

Take 5 minutes to write down a few things about yourself that adds life to you or those around you. Next, spend a few minutes thanking God that he takes complete joy in (potentially) our only life giving trait and seeks to nurture that remnant into the whole of our being.

Prayer:

Father,

We know that you are a just king, one who seeks to make right the whole of creation. We praise you that you are not willing to give up on us, but instead love us and strive to make us right with you. Thank you for your Son Jesus, our mighty Savior. We ask that we would continue to raise up a generation who would honor you, and seek your purifying fire.

Amen.

Posted by Elia Mrakovich with

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