Malachi 3:1-4 —

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.

 

from Richard Howard, First Christian Church, Morgantown

Today we hear the word of God as spoken by the ancient prophet, Malachi, who tells of one who is coming “to prepare the way for the Lord,” of a messenger who will purify people’s hearts.  He declares that God is sending an emissary who comes to cleanse souls.

“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…”  A refiner’s fire is a white-hot flame that burns all impurities off an ore, leaving behind only the pure, valuable metal.  And fullers’ soap is a strong, lye-based soap that bleaches impurities from cloth.  The messenger whose job it is to prepare us for Coming of the Lord comes to burn away the impurities in our souls and then apply a scrub brush to our spirits.  If this is true, why do we have a need for purification as we journey toward Christmas?

On a physical level, it is well established that we need to be clean to stay individually and corporately healthy.  Today’s reading from Malachi declares that this is also true on a spiritual level.  Do our souls as well as our bodies need a cleansing before Christmas?  Malachi says “YES!”

As we journey once more towards Bethlehem and the manger, the words proclaimed by the prophet Malachi remind us that if we expect to hold the baby, we need to wash first!

Cleanse my heart, O God.  Prepare your place in me.

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