To those who are disheartened and afraid, God says during Advent, “Fear not!”

Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love. ~ Zeph 3:16-17

On this day of the winter solstice, the dark night seems to be gaining the upper hand. Everywhere we look—and thanks to the internet, that is literally everywhere—our world is beset by crises and tensions. In refugee camps, in inner cities, in bombed-out towns and burned-up forests, chaos and destruction have their way. The conflicts and suffering in our own lives and in the broader world presage that something wicked this way comes.

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We can be forgiven, perhaps, for being discouraged unto the point of despair. But to those who are sad, disheartened, and afraid, God says—for the fourth day in a row—“Fear not!” As we share our feelings of dread and sadness in prayer, we ask God to lift us up to a place of gladness. In Hebrew, the word translated “savior” in today’s reading from Zephaniah is associated with an Arabic word that means “to make wide, make spacious.” Salvation is equated with abundance and space. Our Savior, then, hears our prayers when we are hemmed in by the darkness, or caught in the narrow straits of despair. And He leads us out of the bondage of our anxiety to a broad plain of peace and hope.

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Because God is in our midst, enlivening and strengthening our hearts with his love, we can face the future with hope and confidence, sure in the knowledge that the light of God’s coming among us is greater than any darkness, and that the day will come, in the fullness of God’s time, when we will rejoice with gladness in the eternal light of love.

RELATED: Read all of our Advent reflections for 2016

Lord of light and air, Lift me out of the depths from which I cry to you, and wrap me in your glorious and abundant love. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

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