When I was younger, my parents would tuck me into bed almost every night. No matter what juvenile trauma I had faced during the day or the squabbles I had had with my mom or dad, I could count on the fact that the day would end with them singing me the same lullabies, pulling the covers up to fold me tightly into bed and kissing me goodnight. The safety and love wrapped up in this routine was something that I was not necessarily able to name when I was five years old, but as the years have passed, I have come to realize how lucky I was to have that care and consistency in my life as a child.
As I transitioned out of childhood and into the mystery that is the teenage years, I left behind the ritual that had offered so much comfort. But at the same time that my parents’ gentle lullabies began to fade, a new song emerged, a simple tune carried by the words of Zephaniah 3:17: “The LORD your God is with you. God is mighty to save. God will take great joy in you. God with quiet you with God’s love. God will rejoice over you with singing.” This was — and is — a lullaby for me, a song stemming from the love of my God and heavenly parent restoring and renewing my peace when I most need it.
But it gets better than that. God is not just with us as some caretaker far away. Christ has come, Christ is risen and Christ will come again. When this passage delivers the words “the LORD your God is with you,” it does not mean that God’s presence is a thing of the past. This is a reality that we can — and must — proclaim in this season of Advent as we anticipate the coming of Immanuel, God with us.
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgements 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.