Note: The third week of Advent it’s usual to light the pink (signifying joy) candle. Many of the readings for this week focus on joy—God’s joy in us, our joy in God.
Prepare to listen. Light the pink candle. Take a moment to be still and silent, then pray: Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid. (Isaiah 12:2)
Read: Zephaniah 3:14-20
14Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15The LORD has taken away the judgements against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. 16On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17The 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 18as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. 19I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.
‘… 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.’
This brief poem is a grand expression of God’s great love for the people of God. We often emphasize our need to love God, and that’s important. But, how often are we encouraged to reflect on the way God loves us? I’m not sure that we think or talk about God singing, rejoicing, exulting over us in love very much or often enough. We presume that we’re the ones who should sing and rejoice before God because of his love for us. Zephaniah surprises us with his picture of God doing the rejoicing in love over us. As Richard Rohr states, “God’s love is almost a different language. It’s not based in fear, but in ecstasy.” We see ecstasy in Zephaniah’s song of praise. Its imagery blows my mind, especially when I use my imagination and wonder: What does God look like rejoicing over me with gladness? What is the sound of his singing; the melody and the words? Does he dance as well?
Today take time to do something we don’t do often enough—reflect on God singing, rejoicing, exulting over you in love; imagine what that might look like. Receive God’s joyous and love freely and unconditionally given. Live today as one loved by the Lord God.
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord God, you continually surprise me with the ways you behave among your people. Help me go out today with the sound of your joyful singing in my heart and with the assurance that you love me. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, where God rejoices over you in love.