14Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; (Zephaniah 3: 14-15a)
When I was little I used to lay in bed and try to imagine God looking at me. I didn’t really understand what that meant, but I had been told in Sunday School that God was with us. It was odd to me. So I shut my eyes tight and opened them to try to actually see God peeking from behind some cotton-candy cloud, I suppose. I wondered, though: Did God have time to watch me sleep? Did God watch me take a bath? Did God know when my brother and I fought? (I don’t know if Donnie was as concerned as I was with that!) I think many of us still struggle with that. I mean, really, doesn’t God have better things to do than to watch us all the time? So somewhere along the way, we convince ourselves that God is out there or up there or somewhere down that road that we’re on. After all, why would God spend a bunch of time in the muck of this messed-up world. But then we read that “the Lord is in our midst.”—not out there away from us, not up there over us, not down that road patiently waiting for us to catch up. God is in our midst. God is here…among us….with us.
The Lord is in our midst—not coming, not waiting to appear like some top-billing star of the show hiding behind the curtain waiting for the big entrance, but here, now. Here we were desperately looking for God in our life and this little unsung hero of a book wedged in between all those Minor Prophets had it there all along. God is with US. No wonder we couldn’t find God! We weren’t looking in the right place! So all this time that we’ve been waiting for the Lord, God’s been here, waiting for US to notice. All this time that we’ve spent trying to figure God out and figure out what God wants and figure out how we can get to God when we should have been rejoicing. And the passage says that the Lord has taken away our judgments, just smoothed them right over, I suppose. (Actually, I think that’s called forgiveness.) The Hebrew Tanakh translation talks about it as God “soothing us with love”. I love that, the thought of being soothed with love. I mean, I guess it would be uncomfortable for God to hang around with us and continue to pick us apart at the same time and why would God hang around at all if it wasn’t for love?
So in the midst of a world that makes no sense, in the midst of a life that is sometimes riddled with questions and heartache, in the midst of the way we hurt each other and judge each other, God comes. God comes right there into our midst. You see, God didn’t wait for the world to be right. God didn’t wait for us to stop fighting with each other or arguing over who belongs here with us. God didn’t wait for terrorists to quit attacking innocents. God didn’t wait for us so-called innocents to quit attacking those who we think MIGHT be terrorists. God didn’t wait for us to feed the hungry or shelter the homeless. God didn’t wait for us to figure out what it means to be made in the image of God. God just came. God just showed up, really sort of uninvited because frankly sometimes we forget to do that. I don’t think that matters to God. God is not waiting for us to invite God to show up. God is waiting for us to notice that God in our midst. Maybe THIS Advent, we’ll notice. Rejoice! The Lord, your God, is in your midst! Hmmm…maybe we should get ready NOW!
Bidden or unbidden, God is present. (Erasmus)
Grace and Peace,