Scripture Text: Zephaniah 3:14-20 (Advent 3C)
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; you shall fear disaster no more. 16On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing 18as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. 19I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.
The book of Zephaniah is probably set in the time of King Josiah. This was a time of indifference of the people. Perhaps they were tired; perhaps they just got a bit too comfortable; perhaps they forgot who and whose they were. So, the earlier passages of this book are foretelling a time of destruction, the Day of the Lord coming in divine judgment for the people’s sins. That’s hard for us to hear. In the darkness of this world, it is hard for us to hear a tale of destruction, rather than hope. But lest we begin to imagine some dramatic apocalyptic movie scene, we come to this passage. It is changing what the Day of the Lord might look like. It is a voice of hope, foretelling not destruction but salvation. And it shockingly proclaims that “the Lord, your God, is in your midst.”
What does that even mean? In our midst? Like, here, now? What do we do with a God who is here? See, we’ve been content to spend these few days in the beginning of our Advent season looking for the Light that we know is “out there” somewhere. It all sounded so simple. But this…the Light is here? The Light is with us? That’s a totally different thing. In fact, that changes EVERYTHING.
Somewhere we have indeed convinced ourselves that God is “out there”, an elusive deity that we are trying desperately to approach. We have been somehow convinced that all of our hope rests in this “out there” God, that getting to God will once and for all save us. And, yet, we also know that God is everywhere. God is here, here with us. So, which is it? I think perhaps the reason we don’t see God and don’t feel God upon demand is not that God is elusive or hiding in plain sight. The reason is that we are not fully prepared to know the fullness of God, the fullness of life that God has in store for us. In language of some of the New Testament scriptures, we live beneath a veil, a veil that we have sewn, a veil that we are not prepared to shed, a veil that somehow obstructs our view of the Light or shields us from what we do not know or do not understand. And, yet, there are holes in the veil, places where the threads are worn and beginning to tear. And through those holes we sometimes get glimmers of light. This Light in our midst is always peeking in, beckoning us forward, guiding us into the Light that we might become full, that we might finally know this God who is in our midst, finally be prepared to see what we’re meant to see and be what God means us to be.
So, what do we do? We do what we’re called to do in this time, in this place beneath the veil. We prepare ourselves to see the Light. This is the season of that preparation. Walk into it. You will never be alone.
We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God…We must not…assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Grace and Peace,