Shame into Praise

"Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;

shout, O Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,

O daughter Jerusalem!

The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,

he has turned away your enemies.


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."

-Zephaniah 3:14-15a, 19

As already touched on in this series of reflections, the Christmas season deals a lot with upheaval, with radical restructuring of values and of society. Often, however, when we focus solely on beautiful lights, Christmas trees, and material presents for one another, we overlook the radical implications of Jesus' coming as a baby.

Photo by Junior Moran on Unsplash

We saw it last week with Zechariah's song at the birth of John the Baptist. We also see it in Mary's song about the promised coming of her son. And we see it today, codified into the prophetic tradition of Israel. The redemption of Israel that Zephaniah foresaw, and that Christians, centuries later, also applied to Jesus, includes the redemption of those that our cultures and societies cast out and look down upon.

John the Baptist picked up on this in his message, that when people approached him asking what they should do to repent and seek eternal life, he says to share their extra coats, share their extra food, take only what belongs to them, and to be content with what we have, not attempting to hoard more than we need. This has led some Christian traditions to consider it theft if someone has more than they need while their brother or sister lives in need.

We don't often think about it, but Advent and Christmas exist also to remind us of these realities. The coming of Jesus isn't just about personal, eternal salvation, but it's about rectifying the injustices of our world today. That starts with liberating the downtrodden; it begins with reminding the disenfranchised that they have worth. Our world is great at blaming and shaming people who are already suffering on the margins. Advent and Christmas remind us to work to correct that error, to turn shame into praise, and to rectify histories of inequality and oppression.

-Rev. Dr. Blake Hart

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