A Word of Light in a Dark World

Sing aloud, 0 daughter of Zion;
shout, 0 Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
o daughter of Jerusalem!

15 The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.

The King of Israel, ‘the Lord, is in your midst;

you shall never again fear evil.

16 -On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:

“Fear not, 0 Zion;

let not your hands grow weak.

17 [The Lord your God is in your midst,
Da mighty one who will save;

Qhe will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.

18 I will gather those of you who mourn pfor the festival,
so that you will no longer suffer reproach.”

19 Behold, at that time gl will deal

with all your oppressors.

And £I will save the lame

 

and gather the outcast,

and I will change ~their shame into -praise

and renown in all the earth.

20 At that time I will bring you in,

at the time when I gather you together;

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.

In the Name of Jesus,

AMEN

The season of Advent is set in darkness. Not just any darkness, but, the
darkness of sin. We know, see and live daily with its effects on us, those around us,
our neighbors, and our world. Whether we identify Original sin as the real problem or
not, God makes it clear that the real issue we have is not our poor self-identity, lack of
motivation, lack of self-discipline or lack of finding our purpose, but it is the sin of our
first parents which we too participated in. The problem is that we are guilty as
charged. We are sinners by birth and by choice, and so are our neighbors. Advent and
every human being on this planet, begins here, with the dark backdrop of our sin, and
the desperate need for its removal. Sure, we blame other causes for the darkness of
the world, and are fantastic at pointing fingers, blaming anyone and anything else and
comparing ourselves to our neighbor as if to give us some semblance of hope that
perhaps God will grade on some type of a curve, but the prophet Zephaniah spends
the first 2/3 of his book speaking of the consequences of sin, which in our text are the
reason for judgement and the darkness and destruction of Israel and Judah. He speaks
the Law of God to them, not so that they will learn to try harder but, as Paul says in his
letter to the Romans “that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held
accountable to God.” They deserve this judgement. They are guilty as charged.

 

Judgement is the thing we hate, that which we ultimately fear, so we run from, we
even explain away our sin, which is why our favorite verse is often “Judge not lest ye
be judqed.” All the while, no matter how many methods and new mechanisms we may
adopt year after year, we still end up day after day and year after year as sinners,
plagued continually by the darkness of sin, death and the devil.

Yet, we hear this morning, not the words of sadness in the midst of darkness and sin,
or even weeping as might seem appropriate to a people deserving of judgement on
account of sin, but we hear songs of praise. We hear joyful singing in the dead of
winter. We hear the Word of light in a world in darkness.

“Sing aloud, 0 daughter of Zion;

shout, 0 Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,

o daughter of Jerusalem! /I (Zeph. 3: 14)

The prophet then delivers to you and I, why this singing and joyful shouting is actually
appropriate:

“The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;

he has cleared away your enemies.

kThe King of Israel, lthe Lord, is in your midst;

you shall never again fear evil. /I (Zeph. 3:15)

Here in the dead of winter, a declaration from heaven’s courtroom is brought to you
this morning. “The Lord has taken away the judgements against you”

What better news is there in all the earth? What brighter light could shine in the
darkness of sin? By pure gift, you are forgiven! The Lord has defeated and cleared

 

away your enemies, , so “Fear not” as the angels told the shepherds. “I bring you
good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” Zephaniah, then speaks to us
about the One who is to come, as St. John said, the Light of the world who” … shines
in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) Your true enemies,
of sin, death and the devil have been defeated by the One who we confess in the
Creed

“was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius
Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose
again from the dead; II

You who were dead in sin, He made alive, Jesus died and rose for you, and this is why
the prophet prescribes appropriately singing and shouting, rejoicing with all your
heart. This is what we do in response to what God has already accomplished for us in
Christ. We can’t help but sing. We give thanks, we sing and exclaim for joy!

The prophet Zephaniah, isn’t finished with his delivery of good news either, for not
only has the Lord removed our judgements, for He was judged in our place for our sin,
on the cross. Not only has He defeated sin, death and the devil for you, so that there
is NOT ONE single enemy left for you, but The King of Israel Himself, “The King of
Kings Himself” is in your midst. He actually and personally with you right now. He is
Emmanuel, God with us. “The Word became flesh” and “dwelt among us”. This is the
most unbelievable thing, that the Holy King who has made the earth, and everything in
it, is all powerful, Almighty and yet is right here with you.

So again, the prophet tells you that “you shall never again fear evil.” For He has dealt
with sin, and defeated your enemy of sin, death and the devil.

Zephaniah, the prophet, who speaks the Words of God to us, repeats himself about
the LORD, Yahweh who has always mightily saved and delivered,

“Yahweh, YOUR God is in your midst; a mighty one who will save.” (Zeph. 3:17)

His presence with us in His service this day is not to judge you, but to save you. And
He is YOUR God, for He placed His very name upon you in holy baptism, “the name of
the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” so that His death on a cross is your
judgement, it is as your substitute, and it is finished. Judgement day for you was Good
Friday. Jesus, Your Lord died, in your place, for you, and His rising from the dead, in
the same way, is now YOUR rising. Because He has conquered death, now you have
conquered death. So you can confess I believe in “the forgiveness of sins; the
resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.”

 

His removal of your guilt is completely and totally free and absolute, given to you and
for you. It is yours to be received, by grace through faith.

Here in the Divine liturgy, in His service, He is present for you to serve you. He is in
your midst, present with His holy Word which announces you clean, absolved,
forgiven. This is why we announce “Lord be with you” and why we are gathered to
receive His true Body and true blood for the forgiveness of our sins in Holy
Communion. This is why we sing together and confess that we will depart in peace,
because our eyes have seen the King. We together, as God’s cleansed and holy
people taste and see that the Lord, He is good.

That is why the apostle Paul in our Epistle reading today tells us that “The Lord is at
hand!” Therefore we need not be anxious. He is saying the exact same, thing as

Zephaniah. Your comfort is God Himself who is Immanuel, God with us.
God for us.

Notice in our text again, that this Savior in our midst doesn’t do His work for you
reluctantly or begrudgingly, but Zephainiah declares:

“he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love
He will exult over you with singing”

It is so much His joy to love and forgive you that Your Lord sings over you. Tbere is no
reluctance to forgive you, but joyful willingness and song. God is happy to save you.

If we notice all of the action and all of the saving is 100 God’s work and action, this is

the Gospel, the loving and gracious action of God for you. He tells you:

“I will gather those of you who mourn

I will deal with your oppressors … 1 will save the lame…. 1 will change their shame into
praise … 1 will bring you in…At the time I gather you together..  will make you renowned
and praised … 1 restore your fortunes (or literally I will repent you) before your eyes.

Again, Jesus does it all for you. He is in our midst to forgive you even now.

So you fear not, You are His and He loves you.                                                                       

In the Name of Jesus,

Amen

 

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