category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 15

Sunday,  December 12

Zephaniah 3:14–20 Philippians 4:4–7; Luke 3:7–18

My wife is my favorite person! If I attempted to enumerate all the reasons why this is the case, you would grow weary and I would exceed my word count guidelines. Suffice it to say, we love spending time together and being near each other. If we are watching TV in the evening, we like to sit in close proximity. If we are relaxing on the beach, you will find our chairs within arms-length. We work on tasks together, still hold hands when on a walk, and value a table for two when we are out for a special occasion.

Nearness is a great gift. I thoroughly enjoy talking to my mom and dad on the phone, but to feel their embrace and walk down memory lane on the back porch together is a great gift. I am always glad to have text exchanges with my two adult daughters in northern Virginia, but to see their faces and have them sleep under my roof is a great gift. Whether we call it nearness or proximity or sharing the same space, it is good.

Not surprisingly, Scripture is replete with reminders of the nearness of our God.

Zephaniah reminded the people of Jerusalem that even after a season of heartbreak and punishment, they would not be abandoned by God. Indeed, “the LORD your God is with you.” (3:17). God promised to gather all those who had been exiled and scattered and to bring them home (3:20), words of hope and restoration and nearness, a great gift to a weary people.
John the Baptizer knew that the nearness of the Messiah called for a radical change of life. The Messiah was ushering in a new Kingdom. It called for living generously and caring for the needy (Luke 3:11), honesty (3:13), and acting with integrity (3:14). This “one who is more powerful than I” (3:16) was close at hand. The Incarnate One, God With Us, was near, and it changed everything.

The apostle Paul understood that the ongoing nearness of God was not to be forgotten by the post-resurrection Church. In Philippians 4, wedged in between Paul’s great injunctions to “Rejoice in the Lord, always” (v. 4) and “Be anxious for nothing” (v. 6), is the reminder, “The Lord is near” (v. 5). I wonder how many times I’ve read this passage and missed this short verse. Perhaps our rejoicing, praying, surrendering our anxiety, and experiencing the peace of God make more sense when we realize that the Lord is near.

This Advent season, may we wait with anticipation for God With Us to come near, a great gift, indeed.

Anna S

Eddie Stepp
Professor of Religious Studies, Director of the Accelerated Pastoral Ministry Program

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Advent Reflection: Day 16

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