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{advent study week four
mighty to save}

advent wreath - bible study

2 Zephaniah 3:14-20

Sing, Daughter Zion;
shout aloud, Israel!
Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
Daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away your punishment,
he has turned back your enemy.
The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
never again will you fear any harm.
On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.
The LORD your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

“I will remove from you
all who mourn over the loss of your appointed festivals,
which is a burden and reproach for you.
At that time I will deal
with all who oppressed you.
I will rescue the lame;
I will gather the exiles.
I will give them praise and honor
in every land where they have suffered shame.
At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
before your very eyes,”
says the LORD.

It is day ten of the Bastrop County (Texas) wildfires. Two major fire areas have contributed to the destruction of over 35,000 acres of wooded land and nearly 1500 homes. Being a pastor in a community devastated by fire disaster is a new experience for me.

On one hand, it is so gratifying to be a part of the local community. My wife and I were evacuated along with many, but came back to find the church and parsonage without damage. We give thanks for the valiant effort of firefighters and first responders. While grateful to be a part of this community, I am also overwhelmed by the generous response of neighbors from around the state who are giving from their generous hearts. On the other hand, walking with folks to inspect the remains of the burned-out homes is sobering. It is gut-wrenching. I pray for them to have the capacity to experience grace in the ashes. I pray for them that loss of home can be transformed by the hospitality of the gathered community.

In thinking ahead to a better time on a new day, the advent of hope is a message the community longs to hear. Zephaniah 3:17 says "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. he will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."

Even though I do not attribute the lack of rain and the hottest summer on record to any act of disobedience of the people of our county, the words of hope given after the prophet's announcement of judgment can be a source of good news to those displaced and scattered by the fire. There is a day of renewal in the midst of this disaster and the community that grows from this and out of this experience will be stronger in the Lord.


Where the pathways of hospitality and hope intersect, there you will find the Lord. May each day bring new opportunities to walk these paths and discover renewal. In the name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Pastor Paul E. Harris.
Cedar Creek United Methodist Church
in Cedar Creek Texas.

Reflections on Advent from the
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary Community

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