Before Jesus’ birth, the angels appeared to some shepherds on the hillside outside Bethlehem. They came announcing good news of peace and renewal – tidings of comfort and joy.
We asked 25 people to prepare a meditation for us to read and listen to every day through Advent. We are delighted to share their work with you.
God bless you as you read, listen and pray.
Day 4: Zephaniah 3:14-20
14 Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
15 The Lord has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
16 On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
‘Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
17 The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.’
18 ‘I will remove from you
all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals,
which is a burden and reproach for you.
19 At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honour
in every land where they have suffered shame.
20 At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honour and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunese]
before your very eyes,’
says the Lord.
The little book of Zephaniah is a collection of prophetic writings charting the downfall of Jerusalem and painting a bleak picture for the nation of Israel and her surrounding neighbours; ruin and destruction was coming as God dealt with idolatry, corruption and disobedience. God’s judgement would purify His people, leaving a remnant of the faithful who would be restored. Today’s passage is the promise to the faithful, that after the judgement comes new hope – shame is removed and replaced by honour and praise.
Shame is a powerful emotion, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden they immediately felt shame – they knew that they had broken a relationship that was precious and they couldn’t restore it by their actions; they were ashamed and hid from Him. So often shame is related to powerlessness; bullies and abusers play on it to oppress others, but God sees those humbled by shame and loves them. Throughout the Old Testament we see His people turning away from God and then feeling the shame as they experience the consequences. Again and again He doesn’t condemn them but calls them to turn back and be restored, promising total forgiveness. For centuries before Jesus’ birth a faithful remnant of the people of God had been waiting for Him to speak or to act – this passage would have given them hope, that even though heaven had seemed to be silent, one day there would be good news when the Messiah, the mighty warrior, came to rescue them and restore their fortunes.
We too experience shame. When we spoil relationships, when we act selfishly, when we let God or people down. Shame makes us want to turn away, to hide, but God calls us to turn back and be restored, through the gift given to us in Jesus. We need to confess our mistakes, and there may be consequences to face, but the promise God gives us is that He will rescue us and restore us, He won’t rebuke us forever but will gather us to himself, rejoicing over us with singing.
Revd Kate Capper