Friday, December 23, 2011

And He Will Purify

December 23, 2011

Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent

By Melanie Rigney

Thus says the Lord GOD: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner's fire, or like the fuller's lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the LORD, as in the days of old, as in years gone by. (Malachi 3:1-4)

The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear him, and his covenant, for their instruction. (Psalms 25:14)

(After Zechariah, who had been struck speechless upon hearing of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, wrote on a tablet agreeing with his wife that the baby would be called John, Zechariah’s) mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. (Luke 1:64-65)


Lord, I ask for the courage to embrace Your refining and purifying that I might do Your will.


Today’s first reading doesn’t initially paint a pretty picture of what’s going to happen when the messenger of the covenant arrives. It’s full of words that imply heat and pain—a cloth maker’s caustic lye. A refiner’s fire, the burning away of impurities or unwanted elements. Can we endure, can we stand this purification? Will it be worth it?

Zechariah probably didn’t think so initially. There he was, a priest in his own right who along with his wife had followed all the rules. The angel Gabriel comes along and says they’re going to have a child, a child who “will be great in the sight of (the) Lord.” Zechariah challenges all this, and Gabriel then says because of the priest’s disbelief, he will be unable to speak until the angel’s words are fulfilled. Imagine Zechariah’s inner turmoil as the days and weeks and months progressed, as the Lord refined and purified him. Why had all this happened? He’d always been obedient… except for that one time.

It’s a different Zechariah we see in the passage above from today’s Gospel reading. The neighbors question Elizabeth’s choice of a name for the baby; no one in the family has ever been called John. They turn to the mute Zechariah. In his writing on a tablet, he concurs with Elizabeth… and then can speak, praising God in ways perhaps he’d never considered or imagined before.

That’s what happens to us after we are refined by God. The dross in our lives is gone, burned away. What’s left is a passionate relationship we must celebrate constantly and share with others.

Don’t fear the refiner’s fire. Embrace it. Let it in turn light a fire in you. It’s worth it.


Where is God refining you today? Consider taking 10 minutes away from the busyness of the day to journal about this.