The Coming Messenger

I wrote this for my church’s yearly Advent Devotional so I thought I would share it here as well. There are some good devotionals to use today or tomorrow if you want to check it out.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

See, I am sending 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—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

Malachi 3:1-4 (NRSV)

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

When I was a kid, we would always go to my grandparents house on Christmas Eve in Winston-Salem. Around 7 or 8, we would start to head home to Greensboro. During that 30 minute trip, my sisters and I would scour the sky making sure that my dad would beat Santa and his reindeer back to the house. There was no way that we had waited all this time for Christmas morning to have it spoiled by I-40 traffic. Luckily, my dad was a fantastic driver because we never once saw Rudolph’s nose in the sky flying to our house before we could tuck ourselves in bed and listen for hooves on the roof. 

But just as a kid – and in many ways like we are now – I think I was missing the point of Christmas. It was not until much later in life that I realized how powerful the lead up to Christmas morning was and still is for Christians. Our prophet Malachi reminds us of that very point. 

Christmas is more than presents, stockings, Santa, and even the sweet images of baby Jesus. When we look at this passage, we are reminded – somewhat strongly – that God is coming on Christmas morning. Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached that “We are indifferent to the message [of this scripture], taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us.”

However, despite the tone Bonhoeffer used to describe this text, many scholars also point out the overwhelming love found in this scripture. In simple terms, God came into our world on Christmas morning because God loves us so much. Our maker wanted to be “hands on” in the process of drawing us in – refining and purifying us like the precious metals we are. 

And when I think about it like that, suddenly, I realize, it’s the baby in the manger – not the sugar plum dreams or sack of toys – that is worth rushing home to on Christmas Eve. 

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