25–31 December 2016.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Zephaniah 3 is a beautiful and well-known text that we often read in the church during Advent, in the lead up to Christmas. That’s because it is a text full of hope and joy, and the promise of our coming Saviour.
But the chapter certainly doesn’t start out in a joyful way. The first 8 verses are full of warnings about God’s coming condemnation and judgement, especially of Jerusalem and its leaders. God had had such high hopes and expectations for the Israelites, but everything went so wrong. Instead of being a leading example of faithfulness, Jerusalem had become a horrible, nasty city of violence, crime, and oppression.
Even worse, the leaders of the people had given up using their authority for good, and instead used their power to hurt and take advantage of others. Political leaders became like roaring lions hunting down and eating up the weak. Judges perverted justice and purposefully gave unfair judgements. Priests turned against God and promoted evil. And even the prophets, who were supposed to be the last hope of the people and the voice of God in society, gave up on truth and just pushed for their own benefit.
But then in the middle of this chapter, in the middle of all this mess, Zephaniah gives us a great prophecy of hope. One day, the Lord and King of justice will come and make everything right. He will clean up this world and its people, he will wash away all lies and deceit, and he will bring us back to God.
That’s such good news! And that’s why in v. 14 Zephaniah breaks out into a great song of joy. Sing and shout, be glad and rejoice, because our mighty Saviour is coming to live here with us! Our Lord and God is coming to save the weak and helpless!
Now at Christmas time we celebrate and shout out because this promise of hope and joy has come true. In Christ Jesus, in that little baby in the manger, we see our God and King who has finally come to live with us, to save us, and to change our world.
So this Christmas, let’s join the angels shouting “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to all people”, because our Saviour has finally come.
May God’s blessings and joy be with you and your loved ones this Christmas.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis