Rejoice, and share
rejoicing!

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Today we read a message of hope and rejoicing from the Prophet Zephaniah.

This message is found near the end of the third chapter of this very short book of prophecy. More than two-thirds of Zephaniah’s prophesy deals with judgment and can be considered, more than any other prophecy, as one of devastation, death, and Divine judgment. The Day of Judgment is pictured as a time of darkness, anguish, distress, destruction, plunder, and threat to all life, human and animal alike.

Israel had turned from God to false gods, fake gods of wood and stone. Israel’s leadership was unjust and abusive. Zephaniah’s prophecy occurred just before the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.

Today’s world is much like Zephaniah’s. Political leadership in our country and throughout the world is unjust and abusive. Most of the people in our country and across the world have turned from God or have turned to false gods who promise that through some set of works and deeds a person might be saved. Our world is filled with terror. In the not to distant future we will likely know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone affected by terrorism. We are only a few degrees of separation away.

Here we sit amidst all this turmoil and tendency to fear. We ourselves fear for our families, children, grandchildren, friends, and coworkers. In less than two weeks we will gather with them to celebrate Christ’s coming among us. Today we are reminded to rejoice! To rejoice!!!

If we, like ancient Israel, only lived for today, like politicians and believers in false gods, then we have reason to fear. We, rather, live forever. We have been delivered, not by works and deeds, but by faith in the One who has saved us. As Zephaniah foretold: The LORD has removed the judgment against you he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior. We need not be afraid for even if terror comes to our door, we have already been delivered to eternal joy.

We have reason to rejoice. More than that, we have reason to share our joy with the world. We must offer a share of our rejoicing to all people of good will. Those who follow false idols will be saved by our gift of joyful faith and perhaps even a politician or two might reject evil and also rejoice.

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

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Why!

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Today we listen to words of joy, encouragement, gladness, and exultation. We hear of God’s provision for His people. We are reassured that we share in love because God is among us. We also share in the wonderful gift of forgiveness and renewal. We follow John the Baptist’s admonition to repent before the coming of the Lord.

The events of this week in Newtown turn the message of rejoicing on its head. How can we rejoice? How can we be glad and exult? Faced with these words we turn to God with hearts and minds full of questions, maybe questions tinged with anger.

Philosophers and theologians have explanations for all this, but what good are explanations when our hearts are filled with sadness and grief? Can explanations help when our hearts are downcast and our minds fearful? What has happened? God, couldn’t you have intervened!?!

Then we consider our confession and repentance. We look at our sins, and we think, my sins are so small, so insignificant, so trifling. Why should I feel guilt and remorse for my small sins, to have to repent, when there is such serious evil and so much sickness in the world?

In a few days, the next ugly thing will happen. Some person, claiming to be Christian, will burst out with blame for one group or another, and say that God is purposefully punishing us.

We, who follow Jesus can be reassured that God’s peace surpasses our human understanding. Christ came to live among us, not just to appear and go back. He did not come to punish, but to bring healing and renewal. He is not just an antidote to evil, someone we can conjure up in hard and sad times, but the light that destroys evil.

In our confession and repentance we bear witness and re-align ourselves with right and truth. We stay on the right track and call the world to do the same. Renewed, we set out to be God’s light, bearing Christ with us. We bring love where there is little, joy where there is none, comfort where there is despair. Healing to the sick.

God has not left us abandoned and alone. He is intervening every day through us. This Sunday let our hearts take comfort and overcome. Stand up and rejoice in the face of despair and sadness because in the midst of horrible tragedy we will bear the light of Christ to the world – a light that no darkness can overcome.