From wintry darkness emerges the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah who concludes his short prophecy with a Psalm of Joy:

Yahweh your God is in your midst,

As a victorious warrior.

He will exult with joy over you,

He will renew you by his love;

He will dance with shouts of joy for you

As on a day of festival.

These consoling interventions of Yahweh God are addressed to the anawim or lowly, poverty-stricken Jews living in Judea under the reign of the corrupt King Josiah in the seventh century, BCE. These are the remnant who remained faithful to the law of Moses; they’ve not engaged in the worship of Baal, a pagan goddess of agriculture, nor any filthy practices of their neighbors.

What precedes this Psalm of Joy, however, are Zephaniah’s condemnation of the religious and moral corruption of his people and the dire destruction of Judea on the Day of Yahweh. Underscoring these shattering pronouncements is Zephaniah’s sense of sin as a moral offence against the living God: abomination of abominations.

In my perception, nothing has changed much—even the scraggly street preacher (that I once saw while stopped at a red light) and his words, “Jesus saves! Jesus saves! “careening from his hand-held microphone under a sweltering sun.

Yet, this Psalm of Joy is included in today’s readings for the Third Sunday of Advent celebrated in the Christian liturgy. There’s still time to learn …