Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent Day 8, 2015 - Indeed, he is coming....

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. - Malachi 3:1-4

 One of the greatest things about Advent, at least in my mind, is the music we hear. One of my very favorite things about Advent is hearing arias, recitatives, orchestral pieces and choruses from Handel's Messiah. I may have heard pieces of it as a very small child, but I remember reading a story about a boy who either wanted to hear it or sing it and got his wish. This must have been when I was eight or nine, and just reading it made me curious. So that Christmas I asked for a complete recording of Messiah -- and I got it!  My family definitely weren't classical music buffs, but hearing the whole oratorio from beginning to end began my love for it.

Malachi's words were made part of Messiah as it was prophecy dealing with the coming of a messiah. Malachi wasn't specifically talking about Jesus, but Christianity has rather co-opted the Hebrew Bible and made it part of our own tradition. The first part of Malachi's words from this passage were given to a bass/baritone and that particular voicing adds to the intensity of the text. The chorus joins in for "And He Shall Purify" with all kinds of vocal gymnastics. It really is fun to sing, but it's also good to hear how the music illustrates the text so eloquently.

The whole thrust of the passage is that a messenger is coming, the Lord will be found in his temple, and that he will cleanse and purify the tribe of Levi (the priestly class) so that they can present pure and acceptable offerings to God from the high altar. Sometimes it feels like the words are saying that we all will be sent through a process of refinement, ridding us of the dross and rendering us into pure gold. That's a bit of a scary thing, but I'm not sure God would truly put us in furnaces or big washtubs with washboards and harsh soap made of lye just to clean us up a bit.

But the message is clear -- the expected one is coming. For us, that expectation takes flesh on December 25th, but whether or not that is the true date, Christians know that our Messiah is coming and will come again.

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