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"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.
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.
The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord
as in ancient days and in former years." — Malachi 3:1-4
The prophet Malachi speaks of the “messenger” who will prepare the way before the Holy One who is coming at some time in the future. Malachi is concerned about the way in which God’s people have offered the left-overs to God for God’s work and, perhaps as a result, have turned against each other (Malachi chapters 1 and 2).
Advent is about getting the house in order for the guest who is to come. A major piece of the ordering of the house (the household, the family of God) is generosity toward the stranger and the family members who are already present among us. It is about living the life of Jesus with the stranger and with one another. This is the way to prepare for God’s advent in Jesus Christ, both in the remembrance of his birth and in the awareness of his coming to us today.
It takes a great deal of courage to get our house in order. Years ago, members of one of the rural churches I served spoke of how in years past they would welcome strangers into their farm home, sometimes for days, during snow storms. They believed this is what God required of them, and it was the loving thing to do. But they also admitted that as years went by, they were more fearful of letting strangers into their home. There was a sadness in their voices as they confessed their growing fear. Their house (a household of God) was not what it used to be.
Courage. Advent is about living with a sense of courage in a world that seems often more violent than not. And yet, the love of God in Jesus, of whom the messenger spoke, gives us courage to live today and to face the future unafraid.
Prayer: Gracious and loving God, give us wisdom and courage to put our house in order so that we welcome each other and those who seem to us as strangers as pleasing offerings to you, as it was in days gone by, may it be so now, and forevermore. Amen.
By: Rev. Dr. Harlan Gillespie, Assistant to the Bishop of The Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church