Thursday, December 24, 2015

Advent Day 25, 2015 - ...sending my messenger...

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.
 Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.  - Malachi 3:1-5

We hear a lot about messengers in scripture, especially during Advent when we hear the words of the prophets and sages.  They are the messengers of God, those persons charged with the duty to carry a message, a parcel, or a blessing and sometimes pass along military orders or requests for supplies. The image we often think of these days is the logo for a flower delivery service, an outline of a man with wings on his feet and helmet. Often, though, we look to newscasters, commentators, the like to deliver the news of things we should hear, know, or do.  It's hard to escape messengers, especially the gossips who can't wait to be the first to bring news, good or bad, true or not,  to others.

The prophets were messengers. God spoke and directed them and then it was their job to tell the people and urge them to return to things they had turned their backs on or pay closer attention to what they were supposed to be doing. God gave hem words and visions, instructions and demands, and some of them were pretty rough. Imagine being told to walk through the city stark naked for a period of time?  Even now that would be shocking and the person would probably be under arrest within half a block. In Isaiah's day, though, it was just as shocking but also unheard of, since God had ordained that everybody go about clothed. There was a point to be made, though, and the naked prophet was told to to use that particular point.

In the reading, we are told that God was sending a messenger. The interesting thing is that the word "malachi" meant "the messenger." Since nowhere in the book of Malachi is the prophet's name given straight out, it is thought that a translator used the word as the proper name. Who knows for sure, though?

Messengers come from God in various forms. Angels or beings having the appearance of angels have been recorded throughout the Bible. Sometimes we have their names, sometimes we don't. There are times that God seems to speak directly to his human messengers like the prophets. Samuel got a direct call at night, one that puzzled him until Eli, his mentor, told him what to do and say. Zechariah certainly had some contact with a messenger who confirmed Elizabeth's pregnancy and who told the old priest to name his son John, a name that had not appeared in any of the family genealogy. Two Josephs got messages in dreams: Joseph the son of Jacob and Joseph, Jesus' foster father. Mary's messenger was an angel who confronted her directly with God's request for her consent to something that would definitely change her life totally.

Of course, messengers often bring unwanted news, sometimes angering the recipient so much that the messenger is in danger. We're familiar with the saying "Don't kill the messenger," although that is precisely what happened to Jesus. Like many messengers, he brought news that was not just unwelcome but also that had a tinge of sedition in it.

Even with the proximity of Christmas, we still have time to listen for messengers from God. Sometimes they may appear as anything but angelic, but their words ring with truth. Listen and watch carefully.

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