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Devotion - December 9, 2021

Zephaniah 3:17-20 (New Revised Standard Version)

The Lord, your God, is in your midst,

a warrior who gives victory;

he will rejoice over you with gladness,

he will renew you in his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing

as on a day of festival.

I will remove disaster from you,

so that you will not bear reproach for it.

I will deal with all your oppressors

at that time.

And I will save the lame

and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise

and renown in all the earth.

At that time I will bring you home,

at the time when I gather you;

for I will make you renowned and praised

among all the peoples of the earth,

when I restore your fortunes

before your eyes, says the Lord.

Devotion by Rev. Courtney Jones

When I read this, I think of the Bon Jovi song, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” Some of the lyrics are:

Who says you can't go home?

There's only one place they call me one of their own

Just a hometown boy born a rolling stone

Who says you can't go home?

Who says you can't go back?

I been all around the world, and as a matter of fact

There's only one place left I want to go

Who says you can't go home?

Zephaniah is a short book—three chapters long—and he spends the first two of those chapters telling Israel that God will punish them. But then, in these words (which many scholars agree is probably a later addition to the text), the author promises return of a remnant that will survive God’s wrath. Many prophets deal with what it means to live in exile, to long for a return to a place, an identity; in most cases, the place and identity for which they long is only a dream, a memory passed down through generations. It’s why the idea of a messiah, a warrior-king, was so appealing: they just wanted to go home, and a messiah would gather the scattered children of Israel and restore them to their promised land in peace.

For many of us, the holidays have been a time of homecoming, usually with lots of stress—trying to both recapture the traditions and experiences of times gone by while also putting forward an image of how much we’ve grown, changed, and accomplished. We get caught between the stuff of memory and the trappings of a culture that values upward mobility. Maybe we want to go home, or maybe the dream of home is better than the reality. Or maybe we never left home at all, and there’s no place we’d rather be (or maybe, we’d like to be anywhere else)! Whether it’s a feeling or a place, there’s nothing quite like being “home” for the holidays.

Advent is a time of remembering what has been, both our own memories that complicate the season and a spiritual memory of what we say happened long ago in the person of Jesus. To remember is to re-member, to put back together something that isn’t whole. And so Advent also calls us forward with the same hope and longing expressed by the prophets—that God’s work is not yet done until we are all home, wherever we are, safe and loved and free, living in heavenly peace.


O God, we want to go home for Christmas, if only in our dreams. But most of all, be our Home, dear God. Be for us a safe place to which we can return, again and again, until all is calm and bright. Amen.

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