Malachi 3:1-2 "Behold, I send 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, behold, 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;
Christmas is coming, and it seems that it is something many people are looking forward to. Christmas is coming, but what are you looking forward to? Chances are that there is something you wantÖ. And as you look over your Christmas list, where is Christ on that list? For many, he is not even on the list, perhaps only for a few is Christ anywhere near the top of the list. You see, our lesson is reminding us that when it comes to Christmas, not only does Christ need to be at the top of the list, but basically he needs to be the whole list. What I mean is this, it calls us to have a list which begins in Christ, and that everything else flow out of Christ and the grace by which we are forgiven and saved. More than that, it reminds us that the only thing that God wishes to save, is us, and even that, not as were are, but as a new creation. God has no plans to save our stuff. God has no plans to save our traditions. God has no plan to save our feelings. God has no plans to save our opinions. All these things will pass away, for they are imperfect, and when God comes to save, God comes to bring us to the new and perfect creation.
Oftentimes we may act as though we are poor and downtrodden, and we may feel lost, alone neglected. We may be of the opinion that the world is unfair, and there are a variety of things that we deserve, for what we consider to be many good reasons. There may be times when we long for God to come, so that he would punish the wicked, and those who are mean to us.
Well, God is coming, and that is what Advent is all about. God is coming, and because God is coming, we want to get ready, so that when he comes, we are ready to meet him. And one of the chief obstacles to getting ready to meet God, is our stuff. Not only are we rather attached to what we have, but much of our time is spent dreaming about even more of it. Its not just things, although they are often near the top; sometimes its people, they can be part of our stuff. Or perhaps it could be feelings, they too can be pretty important. Sometimes it is opinions, for we believe we have a right to our opinion. Perhaps it might be some notion of freedom, self determination, and to do what we want. Donít we have be our rights, [whatever that means] an all inclusive right of freedom in which we are neither accountable or responsible, mine, because I deserve it.
But when it comes to meeting God, the first thing we have heard is the law, and the law convicts us of sin, we are all sinners, and the only thing that sinners deserve, and have a right to, is punishment. That hurts, for our whole world keeps talking about good things which we are said to have a right to, and to deserve. How often have we heard: "You deserve a break todayÖ" The law says we are responsible, and calls us to act responsibly. I do not know anyone who really wants to be punished; although some hunger for love and any form of attention so much that it may appear that they want to be punished. But we really donít want to be punished, we do what to be loved.
And so while the law tells of God coming to punishment, the gospel tells of God coming in love in Jesus Christ, to make us a new creation, perfect, and to take us to a perfect place. Christmas is a beginning of that work of God coming to bring salvation to us, of God coming in love. And thatís the part we look forward to. And God works in our hearts, and shows us that all the old is passing away, so stuff, feelings, and opinions will also be passing away, to be replaced with that which is perfect.
And to explain how this will be, God talks about a refiners fire. At baptism God puts a seed of faith in us that begins to grow, but it is the kind of thing which will last forever, it is already a part of the new creation. But you cannot refine a seed, not by fire, and so let us talk about faith being like gold, but in our lives our faith is mixed up with all kinds of other stuff. When Gold is refined, first the ore is crushed, and through fire it is purified, so that in the end, only the gold remains, all the rest is burned away. So our gospel encourages us to be rich towards God, and too use our time for those things which can stand the heat, and to take care of the wondrous seed of faith in which is our hope of salvation.