Mennonite Church USA’s 2021 Advent at Home devotional, “Dare to Imagine,” was written by Talashia Keim Yoder, pastor of Christian Formation at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana.
We invite you to wait for Jesus as we share weekly reflections and activities for all ages. Download the full Advent At Home worship guide.
Week two: God’s joyful song!
Week of December 12
Focus Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-20
Additional Lectionary Scriptures: Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:7-18
Weekly worship ritual
Connect to the “big story”
God created a good world. We were created to live peacefully, but we often miss the mark. When that happens, we have to deal with the consequences, but God sticks with us. Our whole story is a story of God sticking with us. In the Bible, God called Abraham and Sarah’s family to be a blessing to the earth, and even when they missed the mark, God stuck with them. When the people were in slavery and cried out to God, God stuck with them by sending Moses to lead them. When the people of God had a hard time understanding how to live God’s law of love in community, God sent leaders like Joshua, judges like Deborah, and prophets like Samuel to bring the people back to God.
The people wanted to be ruled by kings. Things didn’t always go well under kings, and the kingdom divided in two. God kept speaking through prophets in both kingdoms, sticking with the people, even as the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyria. Zephaniah, the prophet we’re reading this week, is believed to have been a prophet in the Southern Kingdom, probably right before the time of King Josiah.
The Southern Kingdom, as we learned last week, eventually fell to Babylon, and many people were taken “into exile,” which means that they were moved to an unfamiliar place. Many scholars think this final part of the book of Zephaniah was written by a prophet who was with the people in exile. The people felt far from those they loved, far from home, far from everything familiar. The prophet gives them words of joy: restoration of the people! God is sticking with them, loving them, rejoicing over them with singing, and they can live in hope. The prophet invites us to dare to imagine God’s joyful song.
Tell the story: Zephaniah 3:14-20
Talk about it: Choose a few of these prompts to explore:
- During Advent, we anticipate what has been and what will be. The birth of Jesus and the return of Jesus. This passage helps us live into the “now and not yet” of Advent. The joy that is and the joy that will be. Christ who was, is and is to come.
- One of the images of God in this Scripture is as a warrior who gives victory, a common theme in Scripture. Sit with that image. How does it feel to you? Is this a way you often imagine God?
- Read verse 17b out loud. Better yet, act it out! This is a boisterous God, singing loudly and joyfully!
- There’s a confusing phrase in verse 18 that the NRSV seems to skip over. What’s translated “as on a day of festival” may more accurately mean, “those sorrowing from lack of festivals.”1 The people are sad, because they haven’t been able to celebrate and have rituals like they used to! Many of us are still not “back to normal” right now, and like the people in exile, we know we will emerge from the pandemic with new ways of doing things. And we mourn that, even as we look forward to what is to come.
- What would God’s joyful song be for your community right now?
Imagination Station: How did this story prompt you to imagine and create?
Daily worship ritual
- Light two purple candles, then the pink candle and say something like, “Jesus brings God’s hopeful goodness! Jesus brings God’s peaceful embrace! Jesus brings God’s joyful song!” If you want to keep it simpler, say, “Jesus brings hope. Jesus brings peace. Jesus brings joy.”
- Read part of Zephaniah 3:14-20 or one of the other lectionary Scriptures for the week. Alternatively, read the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke 2:1-20.
- “Imagine the Journey:” Move Mary and Joseph a little closer to the Nativity scene.
- Prayer: God, you stick with us and love us. You gather us in and bring us home, again and again. Make us bold enough to imagine your joyful song, shouting your love for us! Amen.
- Blow out the candles.
- Sing a song of joy.
1 Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, Vol.2 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018), 1350.
Visit MC USA’s Faith Formation page to find a one-stop hub of formation resources for all ages, curated through an Anabaptist lens.