The Second Sunday of Advent; Year C (12/6/2015)

Lessons:Malachi 3:1-4 or Baruch 5:1-9 St. Luke 1:68-79 (78) Philippians 1:3-11 St. Luke 3:1-6

Prayer of the Day: Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming give to all the people of the world knowledge of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

3.1 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?

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. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

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Malachi 3:1-4 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Malachi 

MalachiIt is the final book of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament). He is the last of the twelve minor prophets to speak from the pages of Scripture. We know so little about him that some wonder whether “Malachi” is his name or his description. Translated into English, the Hebrew word malachi means “my messenger.” Malachi was a prophet: a messenger from God to the people.

Four short chapters. 18 paragraphs. 1,700 words. The book begins simply enough: “An oracle. The word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” [Malachi 1:1] Malachi most likely began his ministry somewhere around 420 b.c., after the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, at a time of great unfaithfulness among the priests and people of Judah. The people had returned from their exile in Babylon. The great Temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt. And Malachi called the people to faithfulness, as a way to prepare for the coming of God’s Anointed One.

Malachi begins his book with a description of God’s deep love for the people of Israel, but he continues with hard words about their lack of faithfulness. The Priests have drawn the people away from true worship, and from their commitment to God. The people have intermarried with their pagan neighbors, forsaking the ways of God, and setting themselves up for the judgment that surely will come.

In words that we Christians believe foreshadow the coming of John the Baptist in the spirit and power of Elijah, Malachi announces that one will come, sent by God to prepare the people. These final words from the Old Testament are a fitting transition to the New Testament, which opens with stories of their fulfillment.

These words come first to us as good news: the messenger will come as one in whom we delight. One sent by God, “whose steadfast love endures forever.” But these words bring a challenge with them as well. Malachi asks us: who can endure the arrival of God’s messenger? He comes like a refiner’s fire. He comes like a fuller’s soap. His ministry is to burn away our imperfections; to wash away our sin. When the messenger of God enters our lives, it changes us. We will never again be the same.

What a powerful image for our faithfulness! We are loved by God, just as we are, but we are not left by God, just as we are. God’s presence in our lives is like a “refining fire.” It seeks to destroy all in us that is broken and sinful; all in us that draws us away from what is holy and righteous and good.

Welcome to Advent — the season in which God seeks to refine us, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ. And so we pray, “Come Lord Jesus. Come Holy Spirit. Prepare us to be the people God intends for us to be.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What role does the prophet Malachi play in ancient Israel?
  2. What situation does God send Malachi to address?
  3. How does his ministry and message help us understand John the Baptist?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. In what ways does my life need to be refined?
  2. How might God be preparing to change me in this Advent season?
  3. What would it look like for my faith and faithfulness to grow this year?