written by Rev. Carol Cooper
Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-20 NLT
14 Sing, O daughter of Zion;
shout aloud, O Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
15 For the Lord will remove his hand of judgment
and will disperse the armies of your enemy.
And the Lord himself, the King of Israel,
will live among you!
At last your troubles will be over,
and you will never again fear disaster.
16 On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be,
“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
17 For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
18 “I will gather you who mourn for the appointed festivals;
you will be disgraced no more.
19 And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you.
I will save the weak and helpless ones;
I will bring together
those who were chased away.
I will give glory and fame to my former exiles,
wherever they have been mocked and shamed.
20 On that day I will gather you together
and bring you home again.
I will give you a good name, a name of distinction,
among all the nations of the earth,
as I restore your fortunes before their very eyes.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
The book of Zephaniah is one of the Minor Prophets…the first part of the book pronounces judgement─it is God seeking to purify his people from sin, evil and violence. The final part of the book, including the Scripture from today, pronounces hope for Jerusalem and the nations. “God performs this act of justice because He’s passionate about protecting and rescuing His world from evil. He loves us so much that He must purify us. Only then can He bring restoration where He removes evil forever and creates a New Jerusalem for His faithful remnant from all nations to gather and flourish in peace and praise Him. Together, God’s justice and love give the world future hope.”
The great hope we read here is hope in the coming Christ…when the Lord will live among his people once again. Oh what joy we will share when we once again dwell in God’s presence. What do you hope for? What hopes to you hold for yourself? For your loved ones? For the world?
There is great joy on Christmas mornings for children…the anticipation of what Santa has left, the excitement of a lit tree with presents under it…To be completely honest, I look forward to Christmas morning as much now as I did as a child. I have always loved finding my stocking and seeing what gifts were left for me. I have learned as I have grown older though, that we have hopes for the children of this world, because of the hope we have in Christ. And the joy children experience on Christmas morning is nothing compared to the joy Christ brings. As you decorate your home this year…as anticipation and excitement fill you, offer your hopes as prayers to God. Spend time with all the lights off except for the glowing of the lights on your Christmas Tree and give thanks for the joy you have known and the joy you know comes with the birth of the babe born in the manger.
We give you thanks that you have spoken to us through the Scripture. We give you thanks that you live among us and you are our mighty savior…that you take delight in us…that with your love you calm our fears and that you rejoice over us (vs.17). Continue to speak, Lord, for we are listening. Help us find moments of grace─moments for hope─moments of calm during this season that can be full of chaos. We love you, Lord, and we rejoice in you alone. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.