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Sunday, December 17 | For God so loved IN-N-OUT Burger

Editor's Note

About the authors: 
Jon Graybeal is ZPC's director of student ministries. He and his daughter Emma have been involved at ZPC since 2011. Jenna MacLean is a student ministries intern at ZPC. She is planning a May wedding with her fiance Jake.

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.

Redemption | John 3:16-21

Of the thirty-one thousand, one-hundred and two verses in the Bible, John 3:16 is without doubt the most widely known of them all. You see it at sporting events; you see it on the bumpers of cars; you see it on t-shirts; you see it under Tim Tebow’s eyes; and, if you’ve been out west recently and stopped by the greatest fast food burger joint known to humankind
and you looked closely, you noticed that John 3:16 is even on the bottom
of IN-N-OUT BURGER’s cups. Yep! For God so loved the world and IN-N-OUT BURGER.

How is it that one verse has become the poster child of Christian faith and scripture? Maybe it’s because it just might be the most concise statement of what the gospel is all about. Redemption. Despite our short comings, despite darkness, despite evil and despite death, there is a light, there is salvation and there is redemption….for everyone. The verse reminds us that our God redeems and compensates for our faults through his son Jesus. The verse reminds us that God didn’t just love us, he SO loved us, he SO loves you and he SO loves me. We are SO deeply loved by Jesus and yet not one of us has done anything to earn it or deserve it. We are a redeemed people.

In the midst of my own shortcomings and in the midst of darkness and evil, I often have to remind myself that I am redeemed. We are redeemed and as redeemed people we’re to remember that we are loved so that we might love others; we’re to remember that we are saved so that we might offer that same gift we’ve come to know to others; we’re to remember that death and darkness do not have the last word so that we might truly live; we’re to remember that God SO loved us that he redeemed us through his one and only son.

Activity

Pass around note cards or paper and have everyone write down a fault, failure or shortcoming they see in themselves. Then light a candle and burn up the note cards to symbolize our redemption: Jesus’ light taking away our sins. Keep the candle lit throughout the week as a reminder that His light shines into the world. Discuss as a family how you can practice seeing yourself and others as loved redeemed.

Prayer

Lord,

Thank you that you sent your son to die for us. We are overwhelmed by your love for us. Help us to see ourselves and to see others through your eyes. Help us to see ourselves as redeemed and loved, rather than focusing on our shortcomings. Help us to see others–our neighbors, our friends, our family–as redeemed and loved. Give us your eyes; we want to see your light. We love you. Thank you for the cross.

In your son’s name,

Amen.

Saturday, Dec 16 | Which one am I?

Editor's Note

About the author:
Tom Corbett has been a member at ZPC since 2014. Tom's son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren live in Bloomington. Tom is an active volunteer. At ZPC, he is involved with the Great Banquet community and serves in the children's ministry area. He has volunteered with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for 27 years and Storytelling Arts of Indiana for 6 years.

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 1:26-33 NIV

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Every Advent season when I hear this scripture, it is a reminder to me to read all of Luke 1. When the angel Gabriel foretells of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, the contrasting responses of the elderly priest Zechariah and the young Mary make me wonder, “Which one am I?”

Zechariah, doubtful after so many childless years and seeking a sign, responded, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Gabriel assured Zechariah, and then made him mute until the birth of John – actually, until Zechariah affirmed his infant son’s name in writing.

Mary, faithful and believing Gabriel’s words, wondered, “How will this be since I am a virgin?”

Gabriel assured Mary, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Today while I was reading and reflecting on Luke 1, I began to wonder about the mystery and the reality of God walking among us every day, and this memory surfaced: 

When I was 26, my brother-in-law, a paramedic, invited me to take an EMT course he was teaching. A few months after I passed the Indiana and the National registry exams, he and my sister, also an EMT, asked me to assist them with a long distance patient transport from Southern Kentucky to Indianapolis. My sister and I would be in the back of the ambulance monitoring our patient, an 80-year-old woman who had suffered a stroke and was being transferred to a rehab facility closer to her children. 

During the return trip to Indianapolis, we were surprised to find our patient very alert and very talkative. But there was a problem; a challenge, rather. She was partially paralyzed on the right side of her body, including her face. Her speech was not slurred, but her words were not clear either. Also, she couldn’t make the hard “c” and “k” sounds, just like my toddler son. Because of my son, I was able to understand every word our patient spoke. My role became “translator” and for 4-1/2 hours she told us about her late husband, her parents and grandparents, her children, stories of when she was a little girl, and on and on. She was so sharp. So smart. As we were readying our patient to exit the ambulance, she took my hand one last time and said, “Thank you. God bless you.” 

Perhaps this memory of my Saturday afternoon with a gracious, faithful, trusting, and strong woman surfaced today because Mary embodied those traits. The simple, young Mary, who would be the mother of the Son of the Most High, responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”

“Which one am I?” Both Mary and Zechariah are trusting and faithful to God. Mary’s joy and praise are uncomplicated, while Zechariah’s joy and praise come after the birth of John, when he is again able to speak. Zechariah knew Gabriel was an angel sent by God. Perhaps after so many childless years, he was simply skeptical of Gabriel’s message. He lacked youthful faith and hope.

Yes, the Advent season is a time of expectant waiting, preparation, and celebration! It is also a time for reflection, renewal, and a return to youthful faith and hope!

Activity

Mystery surrounds us every minute of every day. Today, listen for God’s gentle whisper (1 Kings 19). Ask God to give you ears to hear and eyes to see the ways he is speaking to you. Ask him for the ability to recognize his voice. This evening, reflect on when, where and how you felt or saw God walking with you.

Prayer

God our Father,

Draw us more deeply into the mystery of your love and prepare our hearts to receive the gift of your Son, who is our light and our salvation. Open our ears and our eyes to you. Let it be according to your word. Grant us your peace.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen.

Posted by Tom Corbett with

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