It has been difficult for me to relate this passage from Zephaniah to the season of Advent. Yes, it is a song of joy about a loving, forgiving, and even singing God, and I especially like the idea of a singing God, but who does God love, forgive, and sing about? It is “a people,” and that is what gives me pause.
Although the specific people referred to in the passage are Israelites, what I find difficult to accept is the idea that God would have a special relationship with any one people or nation. In addition, the passage has overtones of militarism and self-centeredness. It refers to God’s removing Israel’s enemies, giving it victory, and punishing its oppressors. It also speaks of the Israelites’ becoming famous, prosperous, and praised by the whole world.
Why do I find these aspects of this scripture passage unsettling? Because they are contrary
to everything that Jesus stood for. Jesus came to be the savior of all people, not just the Jews; to provide eternal life to all individuals, not fame and fortune to any particular nation or group of persons; and to bring “peace on earth” but not through “the sword.” In short, Jesus came to give us a better understanding of God than Zephaniah gave us.
At Advent, therefore, let us give thanks for the birth of Jesus because he showed us that we do not have to be members of any “people” in order to be loved by God.
Ellis M. West