Second Sunday in Advent

“Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?  For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap, he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” (Malachi, 3:1-3)

The anticipation implicit in Advent is not at all the same as our tendency to look out the window frequently when beloved guests are awaited.  Lately, when my daughter or son and their families are expected, I find myself checking the driveway for the expected arrival anywhere from fifteen minutes to a half hour before they are due to arrive.  Anticipation drives me to the window.  What Malachi talks about in this passage is not just the “delight”-full expectancy, but the added and essential dimension of transformation.  The caustic action of fuller’s soap deep-cleans and whitens cloth to remove impurities.  This is something the cloth would feel deep in its fibers (if it could feel).  Similarly, the refiner’s fire that melts silver, driving impurities to the surface to be cleared would never be mistaken for a slight warming.  So in Advent we not only anticipate the delight of the long-awaited Savior, we should also anticipate (or at least notice) that his arrival should demand and create profound changes in those who receive him.  The child who will arrive in Bethlehem comes to change the deepest parts of ourselves.  As Zacharia (father of John the Baptist) puts it in Luke 1:68, 79, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people…to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”  Zarcharia’s son John would end up paying the ultimate price for speaking the truth about Jesus and for standing up to Herod’s abuses.  John the Baptist stands as one of the great figures of the Bible in anticipating the light that Christ brings to the world and the changes that Christ’s light can make within us.

Prayer

Help us, Lord, to feel your delight in us this season and to be open to your cleansing and refining work in our lives.  May the anticipation of your arrival in our lives continue well beyond the Christmas season.  Come, Lord Jesus,

Amen
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