This is the third week of Advent, the Christian season of preparation for Christmas. We’re looking at some of the traditional themes of the season. This week: Hope and Joy.

Today’s scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-20 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Robert Ferguson):

God is coming — look busy!

Whenever I hear that I laugh to myself. If you have ever worked in an office environment you can identify with the fear that the boss is coming to chop our heads off if we aren’t bent over our keyboards staring intently at some “life altering” project. It’s a fear based reaction that we learn early on and often we can so easily apply it to our Christian walk.

In today’s reading the prophet Zephaniah was speaking to the nation of Israel in a time of great national uncertainty. Israel was at war, losing badly and literally on the verge of being destroyed. The economy was tanking, death was everywhere around them, and peace and well-being were quickly disappearing. Exactly what was there to be joyful about? And here is the prophet saying, “Rejoice, God is here with you!”

So the idea of God being right here in our midst could be very troubling if all you have ever heard is that God’s wrath has fallen upon you. But today we are given a different image of our God.

I remember back when I was single, there was a time when I shared with a family member that I had been operating out of fear: fear of dying alone, fear of never finding love, fear of losing my job and fear of my health taking a turn. Fear is a powerful motivator, but it motivates fast solutions. Fear is what lands people in jobs that they don’t like in order to be sure that bills can be paid. Fear leads to boring haircuts and sensible family sedans. Fear leads to security. And while those things aren’t necessarily bad, I don’t want to be afraid of God looking into my life, entering my heart and taking over this body.

I want to be motivated by desire. Desire is much more powerful. Desire means working harder to do incredible things. I desire to be closer to God and I am anxious in this advent season for the coming of the Christ. As we prepare for Christmas day we should be mindful that being prepared for Christ has nothing to do with gifts and trees but has everything to do with preparing our hearts and minds to follow Christ! Rejoice! God is with us! 

Thought for the day: Now is the season to acknowledge, once again, that God is with us. And, if we’ve never done so, to welcome and receive God into our lives, to make room for the One with all power in heaven and on earth — the mighty warrior with a quiet voice and a loving touch, the gentle parent.

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.

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