Our God, who loves all of humanity and indeed all of creation, is One who restores. After seeing the sufferings and sorrow of the Israelites, God promises them restoration. In exile, they were not able to worship God as they previously had done. They were not able to celebrate their religious events in Jerusalem. But the prophecy of Zephaniah brings hope of a bright future to the people. There is an assurance of better things to come. God is coming to bring peace and to establish harmony.
In our lives, we often face difficult challenges. In this life, no one escapes such trials. At times we may despair and wonder if we will find a solution to our problems. But we should always remember the presence of God with us. In God, there is peace and unity. God’s Son, Jesus, is coming to restore our lives and to give joy to humankind. Whoever trusts and obeys Christ as Lord and Savior will experience restoration of the soul. This is true regardless of our circumstances—even those who are in the hospital or in prison and feeling very far from or even excluded from their faith community. There is nowhere that God is not present! Just as God, through the prophet, promised restoration to God’s exiled children in Babylon, God also wants to restore all those who today hear God’s voice calling them to return home.
Lord Jesus Christ, you came to redeem us from sin. Help us to understand that you are the only way for our humanity to be restored. Give us joy, peace, and the will to remain always in your hands. Amen.
Reviewing the scripture passages for this week, the hymn title “Rejoice, Give Thanks and Sing” might come to mind. The writers of this week’s texts advise us to do all these things. At this time of year, these responses often seem to come naturally for many of us. The prophet Zephaniah exhorts his audience to sing aloud and rejoice. The prophet Isaiah calls on the people of Judah to “give thanks to the Lord.” In the letter to the Philippians, Paul advises his audience to “rejoice in the Lord always.” The tone of the Luke passage for this week is more somber; through the words of John the Baptist, Luke challenges his audience to maintain right relationships with God and humanity. Taken together, these passages provide a number of life lessons.
Read Zephaniah 3:14-20. Recall a time when you have experienced joy in the midst of trouble. Give thanks to God for your joy.
Read Isaiah 12:2-6. How does your trust in God enable you to overcome fear?
Read Philippians 4:4-7. Are you able to release your worries to God when you pray, or do you tend to hold on to the worry even after you have prayed about it?
Read Luke 3:7-18. Where in your life are you being nudged to do the right thing? How will you respond?
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