Before Jesus’ birth, the angels appeared to some shepherds on the hillside outside Bethlehem. They came announcing good news of peace and renewal – tidings of comfort and joy.
We asked 25 people to prepare a meditation for us to read and listen to every day through Advent. We are delighted to share their work with you.
God bless you as you read, listen and pray.
Malachi 4 (NRSV)
4 See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
4 Remember the teaching of my servant Moses, the statutes and ordinances that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.
5 Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.
A typing error has crept into most modern versions of ‘Hark the Herald angels sing’. It’s true. Sure, the song has changed a bit since Charles Wesley first wrote ‘Hark how all the Welkin rings’ 280 years ago. But in the clearly recognisable bits, a significant typo has crept into Wesley’s original words. But more of that later…
God’s final word for 400 years before the gospels – last prophet, last chapter, last verses – urges preparation for the coming day of judgement. It’s a passage packed with powerful yet uncomfortable images. But when you think about it, for all its negative connotations, judgement is an unavoidable outcome when a Holy God engages with and puts right all the cumulative evil, corruption, oppression, brokenness and idolatry which has damaged His precious world.
Malachi’s ancient prophecy foretells a future new Elijah calling people to voluntarily turn away from the void of sin; calling them into right relationship with God and each other before God engages with planet earth in person. With hindsight we understand this new Elijah to be none other than John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. Malachi urges his first audience to remember the Moses covenant; to order their lives around God’s blueprint for life.
As we await Jesus’ second coming, the big difference is we no longer require a new John the Baptist to prepare His way. Firstly, our salvation is secured through Calvary’s hill, not mount Horeb – yet turning wholly away from sin – repentance – remains vital. But secondly – and here’s the challenge – like Malachi, Jesus has a final word before a new era; that ALL His followers should effectively be John the Baptists – making disciples, teaching them obedience and seeing them baptised in readiness for the King’s return (Matt 28: 19-20).
Are you still wondering about that typo? God’s glorious promise through Malachi is that for everyone who reveres His name; for everyone who ‘Hails the heaven born Prince of Peace’ ‘..the s.u.n. [not Son] of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings’. Wesley is quoting Malachi 4.
So 2400 years later, Advent is a time to look forward with Living Hope toward the rising of the Sun of Righteousness and, whoever we are, to be prepared for some undignified dancing on that great day!