Malachi 3 v 1-4 and Luke 1 v 68-79
Last week we started our Advent season reflecting on the theme of expectation. We mentioned that whilst we associate this expectation with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem at Christmas , Advent also calls us to look ahead to a final advent at the end of time. A second coming of Christ. And in this sense we are still called to prepare!
What I wanted to explore this morning, as we remember the role of the Prophets in our tradition, is how we reconcile this message that the Messiah has come .. and yet is still coming! What does it mean for the Christian that Ancient Israel and indeed Mary the mother of Jesus and Zacharia father of John the Baptist saw their expectations fulfilled in the person of Jesus .. yet we too are called to hope in the future coming of this same King! How can the Messiah have come and still be coming!
The readings we have had this morning remind us that the same message of a coming Messiah given to the Ancient Israelites remains an important message for us .. ‘Behold, He is coming,”. I want to use a rather crude analogy to explore his idea of how we are waiting for the Second Coming! Forgive me because it is limited and very mundane in its connection .. but when thinking about what Jesus has already accomplished as Messiah and what we are to look forward to when Jesus will return perhaps we might draw a comparison with a process many of us know all too well. An online purchase .. an online purchase for Christmas no less!
You see when Jesus came to us, born in Bethlehem living in Nazareth and dying in Jerusalem a transaction was completed. The long expected wait of Ancient Israel for a Messiah who would save them from their sins was fulfilled and in His declaration on the cross Jesus declared ‘It is finished’. The wait is over. Humanity and God have been reconciled. Salvation is at hand. It would seem the transaction was complete. The world was saved.
In this crude analogy it is as though you have received a message pop up on your screen to say .. your transaction is complete .. your purchase has been made .. the gift is yours! No more is required of your time or resources .. it is finished!
Accept of course to wait for your delivery. And this is where we find ourselves in this terrible analogy between Amazon and the Messiah. The transaction has been made the purchase complete .. but delivery lies ahead of us. The final act in the transaction lies ahead of us!
I hope it helps in some way that it is in this sense that we are called in Advent and in the Gospel to wait .. just as the Ancient Israelites were called to wait. ‘Behold He is coming’ we are told once again’ so get ready .. prepare .. be watchful .. don’t go out and forget that this purchase is still to be delivered. We might push the imagery even further and acknowledge that Jesus told us .. you do not know when the delivery will come .. like the thief in the night .. so do not forget to wait and watch and get ready for its arrival.
Let us return to language more appropriate for the talk of a coming Messiah.What we are saying is that in His life and Death and resurrection, Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the promise of a Messiah to God’s people .. and yet this promise holds within it a much greater truth than Israel were to know. For in fact the salvation offered in the person of Jesus was not for Israel alone. But for all people throughout Time and Space. All creation and all worlds and powers will be reconciled and redeemed through the coming of Christ. This has been achieved in the moment Jesus declared on the cross it is finished .. transaction complete .. yet we await the arrival of what has been achieved in His Second Coming in Glory.
This is how the message of a future Messiah and the message ‘behold He is coming’ is to be understood. Not that we need prepare for a further purchase or transaction but rather for the completion and delivery of that which has already been bought in the first coming of Jesus.
So we are still being called to prepare! It is the message of Malachi to Ancient Israel and it is the same as that of Luke to the church. Keep going .. be vigilant .. get ready .. persevere in faith … because what you are waiting for will appear. It is the message of the prophets throughout the ages .. to wait and watch for the salvation of God. It is in fact in this waiting and watching that salvation is achieved. As Malachi puts it .. He is like a refiner’s fire. And like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver!
So with Ancient Israel the role of the church today is to wait and have faith as our salvation is worked out. The purchase is made and the gift is on its way. Don’t let your anticipation wane. The Prophets tell us to prepare.
The Prophets bid the church get ready with the same words as the they bid Ancient Israel … it is one and the same transaction made a great cost and with great humility .. but coming without cost and in great Glory!
Maranatha .. come Lord Jesus