“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.
Malachi is the last of the minor prophets, the final book of the Old Testament. His name means, “My Messenger,” which is fitting since the thrust of his book is the promise that God is sending his messenger to us. One last promise of Advent’that God has not forgotten or abandoned us—but in the silence, he is scripting our salvation and rescue.
The promise of this messenger brings us much joy and hope and peace. But it should also make us highly uncomfortable. Because Malachi employs imagery in this passage that we don’t often associate with Advent. The prophet warns that the Light of the World is a fire. Not just the warm glow of an Advent candle or the soft gleam of a distant star. A blazing fire. We rejoice as Malachi declares, “the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” But we begin to tremble when Malachi asks, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears?”
We understand the threat of fire. It has the power to bring destruction when it is unleashed. In Scripture, it’s often tied to the idea of God’s righteous judgment.
But fire can also be harnessed to bring about transformation and purification. Perhaps this is why fire is also tied to the idea of God’s intense presence in Scripture. He is a refiner’s fire who draws close, bent on purifying and transforming us into priceless gold. In Jesus, he takes the judgment upon himself. He endures the fall so that we can stand in the day of his coming. This is holy love! The brilliance and blaze of this refiner’s fire does not destroy us. It transforms us.
When we think of this season, we often reflect on what Jesus brings. But Malachi reminds us he has also come to take away. To give his life and take away our sin. To give his holiness and take away our brokenness. To burn away all that is not gold and cannot survive the refinement process. So what is he taking away in you? What in your life will not survive the flames of holy love?
We know that the world is desperate for change. And we believe that Jesus is the one who can change it. But perhaps he wants to begin right there with you. And he will not quit. He loves you too much to do anything less than take you all the way.
Our view of his arrival can be sentimental. And it’s okay to bask in the glow of the season and its heartwarming traditions. But don’t forget the fire. This baby in the manger has come to shatter your categories and upend your expectations and transform your life. So let your heart be filled with hope, experience the joy and wonder, soak in the peace. But brace yourself. He has come to change the world. And you along with it.
Refiner’s Fire, I surrender to your flames. Transform me through your holy love.
AND THE WORD BECAME FLESH, AND MADE HIS DWELLING AMONG US.
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