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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, December 14, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Zephaniah 3:14–18

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The 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. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The 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 as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. (NRSV)

“Rejoice,” says the prophet Zephaniah, “rejoice and be glad!” He goes on to list why God’s people should rejoice: God has taken away their punishment, turned away their enemies, saved them. But the undercurrent of fear is still there. It’s evident in Zephaniah’s strategy of alternating between what God’s people have come from and what they’re experiencing now. His audience is still feeling raw from the events of the recent past, and the prophet is working hard to help them see their new reality. God loves them. God has saved them.

Fast-forward thousands of years to our own time. Every day, it seems, the news headlines blare with another reason for fear: the effects of climate change, election results, political intrigue, the rhetoric from the opposite side of whatever side we’re on. The world around us does not feel safe. Our culture is overwhelmed by fear and anger.

So, in this culture, how do I hold on to what is good? Zephaniah’s sharp contrast between the fear and anger of the culture around us and the reality of God’s unconditional love offers a guide. The practice of joy, of rejoicing in God, offers me a path away from the fear. By consciously focusing on all God has done and is doing, I can better remember that God continues to work in our world, even amidst the headlines.

Holy God, in this Advent season, help me not get lost in the headlines. Remind me, again and again, that your love is more powerful and more real than the daily messages of fear and anger in this world. In your name. Amen.

Written by Lisa Stracks, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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