I’ve been preaching from the prophets this Advent season. In the Gospels we have a birth narrative from Matthew and Luke as well as John’s theological perspective. The stories of donkeys, shepherds, inns, stables, angels, and wise men give shape to the main attraction; the arrival of the holy baby entrusted to two scared kids. Indeed the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
I love those accounts, but continue to be intrigued with the passages about those who long waited for that arrival. The prophets spoke to God’s people at different times in history and stages of faithfulness. None were sure of how and when it would happen, or for that matter, what it would look like. But the promise remained as big as the need for it – God would make himself present and known in an unmistakable way.
Funny thing, this singular coming meant different things to different people. Last week’s passage was for a faithless lot from whom God had lifted his hand of blessing. Malachi told of one coming to forcefully judge and reform them, in the literal sense of that word. It’s a fearful thing to know that God is coming to lay claim to you with the best hope being a positive but painful process.
Then there’s next week’s text from the little read work of Zephaniah. Here the judge is given to pardon. God’s violent work is unleashed not on us, but on our behalf. The warrior who saves us is also the shepherd who feeds, leads, and protects us. And God, the perfect parent of us all, with joy literally sings over his adored children. Who doesn’t need a God sighting like that? I know I do.
Only God could break into his story like that. And he did so simply because his heart beats to make wrong things right.
God lives to have the world look like he designed it to be and to see a better reflection from those he created in his image. So you see, there is need for a little Malachi and Zephaniah for all of us. Truth and grace get woven together and perfectly packaged in Bethlehem’s babe. And word is that the one who judges us will also protect and enjoy us. While their people looked forward and hoped for it, we get to look backwards and experience it. Christ was born for this, Christ was born for this.