One of my favorite times of the year.
Traditionally this has become a season where we intentionally reflect on the Christmas story, in preparation for celebrating Jesus’ birth.
For the church, this season is celebrated on each of the four Sundays before Christmas.
As a family, we took great pains to establish some Advent traditions in hopes of preparing our hearts to celebrate the real reason for this season.
We purposely created a few rituals where we became more intentional as a family to read the Bible and pray together in anticipation of celebrating Christmas. We developed some fun traditions that were meant to help us focus on Christ so that we wouldn’t miss ‘Christmas’.
In our culture today, we have cluttered our lives with so much stuff and busyness that it has become a battle to stop and reflect on what this Christmas thing is all about.
So enters the tradition of Advent, a time to remember how people thousands of years ago waited and waited and waited for the promised Messiah.
I would like to approach this Advent season by studying Malachi and his role in preparing a waiting people for the coming Messiah. The book of Malachi is the last book found in the Old Testament. It is believed to have been penned by Malachi himself, whose name means “my messenger”.
In God’s mercy, God sends Malachi to stir up or agitate the people with a crisis in order to wake them up. It is crucial that they get their resources and their lives in order so that they don’t miss the biggest event in history – the coming Messiah.
Malachi was sent to create a crisis among a people who had given up hope.
A people who had become comfortable in coping with their everyday lives.
A people who had grown discouraged in the waiting and in their discouragement had let cynicism creep in.
A people who then ran their lives by their own good thinking, doing as they pleased, placing God in the margins of their lives. They had grown accustomed to their mundane, became asleep at the wheel.
And Malachi came on the scene to agitate them into coming awake again.
That’s the scenario that Malachi faced.
A waiting people. Waiting. Waiting…
The promise had been given, hundreds of years ago, some 1400 years or so had passed since the first mention of this coming Messiah. This people had gotten weary in the waiting. In their attempts to wait, they had taken life into their own hands.
Cope replaced Hope.
A getting by, plugging along the way until… the promised Messiah had come.
And in the process the people had grown complacent about the very things that God had laid out for them. Worship, giving to God, loving and serving others…
This is precisely the condition Malachi found his people in. A people without vision had thrown off all restraint and were living out their lives on their own as if God weren’t involved.
Malachi was right to create a crisis. He knew that this waiting people were not ready for this coming event. An event of epic proportions! Jesus the Messiah was about to come and rescue mankind! The Promised One was about to show up and the people were about to miss it!
So he came to challenge their mundane existence.
To agitate them out of their complacency.
He came to wake them up to their own sloppiness and challenge them back to hope.
What happens to a waiting people when life gets in the way, when the stuff of the flesh gets piled high on the road to eternal life and we can’t see beyond our own selves?
How well do we wait?
So where are you at in this Advent season?
Are you like the Israelites in Malachi’s day, just coping, mustering up your own strength to make it through your seemingly humdrum life?
Where have you then replaced hope with cope?
Have you lost heart, lost sight of Christmas?
Be encouraged. God has a lot to say to you about where your heart is today.
Consider taking this journey along with me and allow Malachi’s story to help stir you out of your complacency into a place of hope and a place of expectation.
And in the process, let God awaken us to the things He has called us to all along. To love Him, worship Him, to love people, to give back to God and go out as He commissioned to heal the sick, raise the dead, restore sight to the blind, to preach and be the good news to the poor and the lost…
Come with me on this journey for this Advent season. Let’s learn together in anticipation of celebrating Jesus’ birth.