Our Advent reading today is taken from the prophet Zephaniah. Writing during the reign of King Josiah, Zephaniah warns of judgment that will come upon the people of Judah. Hard times were coming because of their sin and rebellion against God. Not exactly the good news they were hoping for. Perhaps we can relate to the bad news.
Just flip on the television or open the newspaper. On a national level, times are hard and money is scarce. Terrorism is on the rise. There is still political gridlock in Washington. Race relations are strained. There are the ongoing problems of homelessness, addiction, violence. Too many problems and too few solutions.
On a personal level, well, times are hard and money is scarce. Perhaps you’ve been without a job for a while or working for less than a livable wage. Maybe it’s relational problems, a strained marriage, trouble with the kids, too much drama at work or among friends. Maybe it’s this time of year – it’s Christmas and you are alone, sad, depressed, the future’s not exactly bright. For us and for the people of Zephaniah’s day, there’s plenty of trouble to go around. But for Zephaniah and the people of Judah, in the midst of the warning of judgment and trouble comes this bold declaration: “Sing O Daughter of Zion…be glad and rejoice with all your heart.” Why? With all the bad news, what could possibly be a reason for rejoicing? “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save!”
That’s the good news for all of us. The Lord our God is with us! The prophet Isaiah said the virgin would give birth to a son and call his name Immanuel which means “God with us.” The Lord our God is with us. That’s the reason Christmas is such good news. God in flesh has come to dwell with us. In the midst of us. Along side us. With us even in our troubles. Involved in our lives. He promised he would never leave us or forsake us. He is with us here, now, today, this moment!
And that’s not all. It’s not just that he is with us but he is here to save us. That was the good news the angels announced to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem. “Good news. A Savior is born!” Zephaniah describes him as “mighty to save.” He has come to take away our sin and turn back our enemy. He has taken our punishment and declared us to be forgiven and free. He tells us we no longer have to live in fear. The Savior has come. Immanuel, God with us. Mighty to save.
The prophet tells us “He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Can you picture your Heavenly Father delighting over you, singing over you, holding you close as he quiets you? Regardless of how bad the news may be, you have no cause for fear. Instead, “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart…The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.”