Our Gospel reading this week is a striking contrast to the first three. And yet its message is the same: salvation has come; draw from its waters and your thirsty soul will be quenched.
Zephaniah’s passage is a song being sung loudly. Like those drunk on fresh victory, relieved from the stress of being occupied by unfriendly forces, God’s people sing about the great warrior – the deliverer of their salvation. That warrior is none other than “The LORD your God.”
Isaiah refers to the soul’s reaching down into its depths and drawing out its praise. He states “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation”. The celebration of an occupied people who are delivered from their oppressor is full of song. And, like in Zephaniah, this song is all about Israel’s God, “the Holy One” who is the source of strength and might that overthrew their captors.
The Church, as God’s covenant people under the New Testament, are encouraged to join into Old Testament singing. Philippians were encouraged to live their lives in joy for “The Lord is near.” The joy manifests itself by treating others gently, anchored with an inner peace from God made possible by the coming of Jesus Christ.
We are drawing closer to Christmas Day. This time of Advent – of waiting – is one of joyful anticipation. It is also a time of preparation. And that is why Luke’s passage stands out in contrast. Rather than a song, it is a sermon. Rather than a celebration, it is a condemnation. It is meant to prepare our hearts and actions for the coming Christ. Yet, through all of its challenges, the New Testament prophet is said to be proclaiming “good news” to us.
When Christmas Day finally arrives, we will be joyful and singing the praises of the Christ child. Let us not forget that these days of Advent are meant to be spent preparing. There was occupation before liberation; trespassers before eviction; deeds of faith before songs of joy. How are you preparing for Christ’s coming?