S-1153 12/13/09 3SIA/3C (O) #61; (S) #62; LS #68; #535; #67; (C) #72
Texts: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Philippians 4:47; Luke 7:18-28
Theme: “In Your Midst” (Zephaniah 3:14-17)
Question: “Have you ever felt you were in the midst of things?”
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Second Sunday in Advent is from the O.T. Lesson: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
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.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The LORD Your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing’” (Zephaniah 3:14-17)
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, families are blessings from the Lord—the Father of all families. Almost all of us treasure our families. Perhaps you remember when your children were little and you and husband were watching TV, or laying in bed, your child[ren] would somehow find a way to get right between you two. They wanted to be in your midst.
I remember vividly my children growing up. Tony is my oldest between him and David is 3 ½ years. When Tony was about 6-7, he would have some friends at the house and as they began to play, before long David would get right in the middle of the boys—right where the action was going on. He wanted to be right in the midst of things. Tony would call, “Mom, David always wants to play with us.” And mom would respond, “It is good for him to play with you!”
Today, the prophet Zephaniah speaks to the daughters of Zion and Jerusalem saying to them, “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 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”
Yes, sing aloud, rejoice and shout for Your God desires to be with you, among you and in your midst. What comfort these words were to the people of Israel and to the New Israel—you and I to hear again.
Zephaniah, whose name means “The Lord has concealed, the Lord has protected, the Lord will restore” speaks those precious words so that we may know the mystery of God desiring to be with His own created being.
Study God’s Scriptures and you will see that is what God wanted from the beginning—to be with us in our midst. We behold Him in the Garden of Eden spending time with Adam and Eve. When He delivered the Israelites from the bondage of Slavery, He commanded Moses to build a tabernacle so that He might come to be with them with His Glory and Grace. And the prophet Isaiah put it this way about God’s desire to be with His people: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (that is God with us).
Do see you it? Do you hear it? Do you know it? God’s desire is to be with us and among us —right in our midst. The prophet Zephaniah assures us today of God’s love and desire to be among us not only for a while but for eternity. Even though Zephaniah spoke 6 centuries before the coming of the Messiah, he could look into the future as if this event has already happened. He is speaking of the Messianic work of Christ when He comes to restore and rebuild and renew our lives.
The True Immanuel comes among His people to redeem them from their sins. The Messiah exercises His Royal authority and power to bring victory and peace to His faithful servants and to restore them, renew them and comfort them in His love. When the Lord is in the Midst of His people He is there to bring help, to aid them, to save them. He comes to remove the sin and guilt of those who are fearful because of their sin and guilt. He comes to save those who are captive to the enemies of sin and death. He comes to love those who in their sinfulness are unlovable and unloving. When the Lord is in the Midst of His people, He will be their God and they will be His people (Rev. 21:3).
The Good News is that the Messiah has come in a baby—baby born in a manger. During these Advent Days, we hear again of Christ first Advent as the Babe of Bethlehem—the heavenly Gift. The Gospel writer John put it this way: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In the original language the word “dwelt” means that He tabernacled among us. That is to say, that He is in our midst.
But what does it mean that God wants to be with us in our midst? What implication is there that He dwells among us? He comes to make the poor rich, the lame to walk, the outcast brought in, the blind to see and the dead to rise. He comes to dwell among us with His peace and presence and power. He comes to bring us joy and forgiveness. He comes to make our heart His manger and tabernacle. He comes to bring us comfort and consolation. He comes to restore us and rebuild us.
The Messiah comes to restore the downtrodden and the outcast so that He may make from the outcasts a great cast of believers to sing His praises. What He comes to do in our midst is more profound and amazing than we can imagine. He comes to us in the power of Baptism. He comes to us in the power of His Word. He comes to us in the grace of His forgiveness and He comes to us in His Sacrament of body and blood.
Our Immanuel is here today. He is in our Midst. What comfort is that? No wonder Zephaniah declares: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 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”; Yes, SING, SHOUT, and JUMP for JOY. Do it now! Do it always! Do it when everything looks gloomy and bleak. Shout, rejoice, celebrate for He is in Your Midst.
The prophecy of Zephaniah—God’s promise of coming to be in the midst of His people as a mighty Savior—has been fulfilled and is yet to be fulfilled. As one of my professors would always say, “The now and the not yet.” In the Old Testament, God came to be in the midst of His people in the Tabernacle. Yet in the New Testament, God sent His Messiah, Jesus Christ, in human flesh to dwell in their midst. God’s judgment of human sin and God’s forgiveness of humans are accomplished by Christ’s death on the cross. Christ, the Lord, the true King of Israel; our Immanuel, came to bring about salvation, and He won salvation for His own people, but also those people scattered across the globe. This prophecy is fulfilled in the Church of Christ, extending throughout the world. And yet, He has promised to return in the flesh to the world, to be in the midst of all nations to judge and deliver His people.
When my children were little they wanted to be with us in our midst. David always wanted to be in the midst of the action with his older brother and friends. Today, people of God, Zephaniah remind you of God’s deepest and profoundest desire that He wants to be in our midst. What a joy to know that God is now and will be forever IN YOUR MIDST. And our response is? Thanks be to God that He is with us IN OUR MIDST now and always. Amen.
Now the peace…