Have you met our old prophet friend Zephaniah?

There's a chance you haven't because in our three year cycle of readings (aka the lectionary), Zephaniah shows up twice. We know very little about him except that he preached sometime in the last few decades of the seventh century BCE (620s-600s), just a few years before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians. Like other prophets, Zephaniah condemned the people of Judah (especially its leaders) for worshipping false gods and oppressing the poor. Zephaniah specifically named merchants, government officials, and judges as the ones who failed to live as if God truly exists. Zephaniah imagines a "day of the Lord" when God will show up, wreaking havoc on Earth, and righting the wrongs we all commit. This judgment will be universal and will include even those who know God well. At the beginning of chapter 3, those listening to Zephaniah assumed there was no hope for the future. Yet, according to Zephaniah, this is the moment when things will take a radical turn for the better.

Zephaniah 3:14-20, in the words of Professor Jin Han, is Zephaniah's "building on the gleam of hope . . . [and bursting] into [a] song of joy. The world is a total mess, but though the people have failed God, God will pull them through." The people will be pulled through not by their own doing but by God alone. God's own nature will cause a new day to dawn on God's beloved community. God's love, strength, patience, joy and sovereignty will carry God's people into a new reality where even the outcast is welcomed home. And when God's people raised up their voice in thanksgiving, what they will hear is God's own voice singing back to them.

The theme for the 3rd Sunday of Advent is always joy. Today we will light the pink candle (aka the rose colored one) to celebrate, along with Zephaniah, that the Lord is in our midst. As we get near the great vigil of Christmas (aka Christmas Eve) and prepare our voices to sing one million Christmas carols, we remember that Jesus is already with us now. Jesus was born. Jesus grew up. Jesus lived. Jesus died. Jesus was raised. Jesus still lives. We, with the help of Jesus, are already moving into a new reality where God's goodness will prevail. And with the voice of God singing with us, we have the opportunity to live as if that new reality is making a difference in our current lives.