What are you afraid of? I would say heights/falling, but that’s not necessarily what I think I’m talking about. That’s a little trite for me. Maybe a better question is: at the core of your being, what do you dread happening? What would shake your faith? What would cause your world to spin irreversibly out of control; a tailspin into destruction?
Whatever it is for you, imagine that actually happened. Imagine that one thing which could cause you the most pain came to be. Imagine immeasurable grief, torture, or desolation sweeping over your face, forever changing how you view the world. Nothing is the same, even the colors have changed so the sky which was now a vibrant blue is now different.
If you can begin to move into that imaginary space, you are beginning to inhabit the same space as the people the prophet Zephaniah was speaking to. That sort of pain, that sort of loss, that sort of lament was the being of the people. Zephaniah maybe even added to it for most of his book is God speaking to the people of Israel, telling them the destruction which is about to befall them and that it is all their fault. They are told they deserve it.
Then we get to those last verses. In 3:14-20, the Text for this past Sunday’s sermon, the tenor changes, completely. Judgment has been taken away. Lamenting and cries of pain have been turned into songs of joy and praise. God even joins in the chorus and sings with the people. And the line which hits home this minister particularly hard this Advent, “The LORD, the king of Israel is in your midst; you will no longer fear…” (3:15b). When God comes into our midst, we need not fear.
Christmas is fast approaching. It’s 9 days away, think about that. We have nine days until the birth of the Christ-Child. Many things happen with that birth. Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love come into being. God inhabits our world and shows us our bodies matter. God comes into our world through a dysfunctional lower class family ordaining many different constructions of “family.” But at least for us today, the coming of Jesus means we need not be afraid.
In Christmas, God has come into our midst. The LORD has come and we have no reason to fear. That statement is as true today as it was yesterday and the day before. We live in the in-between time. Jesus came. Christ will come again. Fear has no power over us as the Spirit of God is with us still.
Thanks be to God.