About 10.5 years ago (on July 4) we got quite a surprise. We found out that we were pregnant with our 3rd child. This was not expected in any way – there’s a classic picture that was taken at a 4th of July party where we both look a little bit dazed at the reality that was going to be coming into our lives of three children under the age of 2…yikes. The surprise, though, was transformed into a tremendous blessing when our third child was born several months later. He has been an incredible joy and never ceases to make us laugh and we are so proud of him.
One of the passages that we think of with him and that is very dear to us comes from the end of Zephaniah – after all the words of judgment and condemnation that come in the first 2.5 chapters, you come to some of the most beautiful words and surprising words and hopeful words…Zephaniah 3:14-20
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.
I 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.
At 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.
I wonder what Zephaniah’s hearers thought of those words? After everything that they had heard to that point to hear these words of promise and hope. The words in this passage speak to not just some but to all the people – God will work to restore the fortunes of ALL the people.
One line in particular that stood out to me this morning is in the last part of verse 17. The NET translation shares it in this way:
He takes great delight in you;
he renews you by his love;
he shouts for joy over you.
In the original Hebrew, the first and last lines there are the nearly the exact same. Literally they mean, “He rejoices over you with joy” and “He rejoices over you with a shout of joy.”
What a beautiful sentiment to think that God rejoices over us with joy.
So, on this Christmas Eve, I give thanks for our surprise young man and the tremendous gift that he has been to us and for the many rejoicings we have done with joy for him (and for our whole family) and I rejcoice in the God who rejoices in us. So, just like this Advent wreath has Christ at the center and the candles and light that radiates from it, may you rejoice in this blessing and may you use it to bless others.