THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
16 Dec 2012
Zephaniah was another court poet like First Isaiah, some think even of royal lineage. He must have flourished in the court of the great reformer, Josiah, and like his king become a strict adherer to the laws of the Torah. After predicting doom for those who have corrupted the religion, he prophesies the glorious salvation of Israel by a personal God who will come among them and inspire them to victory in warfare and compassion for the afflicted and will make them renowned to all peoples.
Our reading is a portion of Paul’s farewell in his letter to the Christian colony at Philippi. It opens with what would have been understood as a pun, for the word “rejoice” was also the common word for “goodbye.”
The words, “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,” so familiar to us because used in dismissals, has been interpreted in two ways. The work “mind” in Greek can also mean cleverness. In that meaning, God’s peace is the state that surpasses any efforts of our own. But put in context, it seems clear to me it means a state of peace that we feel, but could never explain.