Written by Emily Ostendorf, 2009 Newbigin fellow

Read: Zephaniah 3:17-20

Growing up, I remember that the local TV news network would find area military men and women who were stationed overseas, record them giving messages to their families, and broadcast the videos between holiday specials. These men and women seemed so psyched to be on TV and so happy to give shout-outs to their spouses, children, extended relatives, everyone back home, and we’d watch them smile, wave goodbye, and fade out as the It’s a Wonderful Life marathon returned.

It wasn’t until someone close to me had to be away during Christmas that I realized that behind
these cheery video messages were some stark realities: this person was away from the people he or she cared about most, sent on an assignment that on some level was the result of oppression, pain, or discord in the world, a microcosm of the kind of brokenness the prophet Zephaniah outlines in earlier chapters. But then at the end of the book, Zephaniah paints a picture of the greatest reunion ever: the whole family back together again, even the scrawny ones, the black sheep, the ones who have been estranged for one reason or another. This is no ordinary gathering where we circle around the piano to sing carols. No, at this party, God sings over us. God praises us.

Video shout-outs simply won’t do. God will bring us all together, deal with the grinches who rob our joy, and pile on the blessings. Until that day, we live with the video. But one day, we’ll get the real deal.

Prayer: Lord God, during this holiday season, let us be mindful of those who are, or simply feel, distant from friends, family, loved ones, or even from you. Comfort them in their loneliness, and help them deeply sense your presence. Make us aware of opportunities to show hope and care to those who need it most, and embolden us toward thoughtful action. Amen.