“Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me; suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming, says the Lord of heavenly forces.” Malachi 3:1 (CEB)
If we relate this passage from Malachi (3:1-4) to the other passage for this coming Sunday, December 6, we find similarities. It sounds as if John the Baptist is the messenger described in Malachi. Both are preparing the way of the Lord. Both offer messages of warning and hope – hope for peace and renewal of the covenant with God.
Yet, the road to peace is often a challenging one. In verses 2-3 of the Malachi passage, we read, “Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can withstand his appearance? He is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. They will belong to the Lord, presenting a righteous offering.” (C EB)
Hmmm. I wonder how often I have gone through the refiner’s fire? I wonder how many times I have been scrubbed with the cleaner’s soap? I doubt that I can count them all, and in many ways, it seems like it’s a steady on-going process. We have to have the rough edges cleaned away and all the “stuff” that keeps us from right relationship with God washed off throughout our lives. It’s a constant process, and it can be painful.
Yet, I suspect we wouldn’t be able to recognize the peace that comes when we are through one more refining or washing if we didn’t go through it! I once had a parishioner who told me that she had never had major losses in her life, and her life was calm and without a lot of problems.
I wondered what would happen to her when she began to have losses and problems. Let’s face it, it’s hard to live in our world without them! Life can bring us unexpected challenges that throw us off and try to bring us down. It is the faith that we don’t go through that fire or soaping alone that helps us to keep on keeping on.
Another parishioner experienced the death of her mother, father, and two very close aunts within six months of each other. She was in such grief, but she held it together, and when I asked her how she was doing, she told me that God was with her, giving her strength to keep on keeping on.
There is something about those experiences and knowing that we can go through them and come out on the other side still in one piece that brings us the peace of God – it’s, as the Bible says, “a peace that passes all human understanding.” It’s a reminder of Jesus’ promise to “be with us to the end of the age.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit and with the support and love and prayers of our families and friends in faith, we can keep on going.
So, this Advent, let us again remind ourselves that Emmanuel, “God-with-us” is truly that: God is with us! We don’t ever walk alone. We can get through the tough times. We can even have a sense of peace in the midst of the challenges knowing that “God has our back!”
How have you experienced God’s present with you (even if it’s in hindsight)?
In what ways can you grow in faith and hold onto the promises of God?
How will you share that Good News with others?