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Joy in God’s Nearness

Editor's Note

About the author: Cindy and Mark Argentine have been members of ZPC since they moved here in 2005. They have two sons at Purdue University and a daughter at ZCHS. They are grateful for ZPC’s vibrant community of faith.

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: Jeremiah 31:31-34

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant… It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:31-32)

After quickly reading these two verses, my first reaction was, “Did I read that last part right?” The logic seemed counterintuitive. Usually, when someone fails to hold up his or her end of a deal, the other party doesn’t respond by saying: “Let’s scrap this agreement. I’m going to offer you an even better one!” But that is what God seems to be doing in these verses. Even though the Israelites totally fail to uphold their end of the covenant—falling away from God, disobeying his commandments, worshiping idols—God promises them a new and improved covenant in the days ahead. He responds to his people’s failures with mercy, hope, and grace.

And the new covenant? “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33)

Under this new covenant, God will draw even closer to his people—so close that he permeates their minds and hearts. No priest, prophet, or other intermediary is needed. Why would God offer such a promise? As with the original covenant, God is seeking a relationship with his people. “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” God wants to belong to us, and he wants us to belong to him.

Isn’t that remarkable to think about? This reality has been true since the beginning of time and is still true today. And we are fortunate enough to know that Christ is the key to receiving this “new covenant.” At the Last Supper before his death, Jesus said: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20) The words of Jeremiah,… Jesus’ Last Supper,… our sacrament of communion—all of these point to the love God has for us and his desire to live with and in us. To be our mentor and our friend. 

As I listen to Christmas carols and old hymns, I’m amazed by how many echoes of this idea I hear. In Joy to the World, there’s the idea of making room to welcome him into our hearts:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare him room...

In the classic Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, there’s also a line about opening our hearts to God:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love. Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.

And the newer praise song I Could Sing of Your Love Forever by Martin Smith has these lines:

Your river runs with love for me, And I will open up my heart and let the healer set me free.

This season, as you sing words that may have grown dull from repetition, tune in to the lyrics. Think about how God offers the ultimate friend request to each one of us. May the wonder of that invitation and the hope it promises be a spring of deep joy for you. 

activity:

Do you ever read Scripture and feel like it is a gift to live in the era that we do? I marvel when I read passages of Old Testament prophecy like today’s passage from Jeremiah 31. Now, living two thousand years after Christ, we can look back on these ancient words and see them through the lens of all the writings of Paul and the apostles. We can celebrate a fuller understanding of how God is moving through and unfolding the timeline of history. We can embrace the joy of the new covenant that God promised through his prophet so many centuries ago. With that in mind, take a few minutes to read Hebrews 8 and 9. These chapters quote and elaborate on Jeremiah 31:31-34. 

prayer:

Dear Lord, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace,

Help me to know that your love and mercy are beyond time, space, and everything else that we can imagine. Help me receive your offer of a relationship with humility and hope. Place your law in my mind and my heart. Lead me to reflect on the joy of your promises and to share that joy with others.

Amen.

Posted by Cindy Argentine with

Finding joy

Editor's Note

About the author: Bryce is a senior at Carmel High School and volunteers in student ministries almost every Sunday. In his free time he enjoys working on spreadsheets, 3D printing and working with the school’s robotics team as their public relations leader.

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: ISAIAH 11:1-9

J-O-Y, that three letter word that appears over a hundred times in the bible. However, it might be intimidating for one to find it and grab hold. One thing that has always helped me find joy is to make a list of things I'd like to complete throughout the day. The sense of accomplishment I get when checking off a box or completing a task helps me to power through the rest of the day with a positive attitude.

However, joy is not one-size-fits-all. Since everyone has different pasts, different experiences, and different reactions, only you can know what makes you joyful. Therefore take time to reflect on the things that you do since it might give you a better idea of what to be thankful for and what gives you joy.

In the scripture Isaiah 11:1-9, the prophet Isaiah mentions animals that stop their primitive ways and lay down. We need to keep this in mind throughout our busy days – it's okay to take a rest or a break. The world will keep whizzing by and we can rejoin it when ready.

Thought of the day: Rejoice in the moment for God has given us a multitude of opportunities but we must stop and make the most of these opportunities for without his grace we have failed.

Activity:

Create a list of your goals for today, cross or check them off as you go. Here are a couple examples:

  • Finish making this list
  • Drink water
  • Help someone else
  • Finish that project

Prayer:

Lord,
Thank you for all the opportunities you give each day. Big or small, each one gives us give us a glimpse at your work and allows us to be with your creation. May we remember to be thankful and joyful for all you have made.

Amen

Posted by Byce Castle with

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