Today's readings can be found here.
We have so many things to celebrate. God has been so good to all of us. He has provided us with the very lives we live, and provided us with food, shelter, and a place to lay our heads right up until this very night. Times may not have always been easy, but all along God was with us. God is with us.
As we celebrate the moment when God sent down his Son to walk among us, we celebrate the promise that God would always be accessible to us. Before Jesus came, to be with God the priest had to enter the temple. But he could only do it once a year, and he had to have a rope tied around him in case he died of shock just by being in God's presence. If he died, they could pull him out by the rope! Before the temple, Moses had to go up onto the mountain just to speak to God. While he was up there, the people grew tired of waiting for God's message and started making a golden calf to worship instead. Jesus' advent on this earth said, “I am here with you.” Jesus did die and leave the earth, but his resurrection said, “I will always be with you.”
Our first reading from the book of Zephaniah is a celebration of God and his love. It says, “Shout for joy... Sing joyfully... Be glad and exult with all your heart!” I believe this is the message of Christmas. The message that people try to convey in gifts wrapped and topped with pretty bows. This is the message that the Christmas Tree tries to invoke: joy and gladness with shiny bulbs and tinsel. Zephaniah isn't writing about a tree and a present though. He proclaims joy because “The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies... You have no further misfortune to fear.... Fear not... be not discouraged! The Lord, your God is in your midst, a mighty savior, he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”
Zephaniah rejoices because God is in the midst of the people. When God is in our midst he removes judgment, foes, fears, discouragement. God brings peace, joy, gladness, and love. The apostles knew this, Paul especially did. He wrote a letter to the Philippians, which we also read today. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again rejoice.” He knew the joy of the Lord. I pray we all do. In this season of Advent, as you bustle about with the tree and the presents, ask yourself, “Am I rejoicing?” You should be. Christ is with us, ever present in the Eucharist and our hearts. This is the advent of our Joy. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, “rejoice”