Monday, December 22, 2014

Who Will Endure the Day of His Coming?

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

By Melanie Rigney

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 a refiner’s fire, or 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. (Malachi 3:1-3)

Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand. (Luke 21:28)

(Zechariah was again able to speak and affirmed the child’s name would be John and blessed God.) Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1:65-66)

Purify me, oh Lord. Baptize me in fire. Set my soul ablaze for You.

We all have Christmas traditions: the lighting of the Advent candles, the decorating of the tree, the cookie and candy baking, the special meals, the entire family gathering to attend Mass together. Each is holy in its own way, for it involves union with the Lord and, generally, with our loved ones.

For many of the past thirty years, my favorite tradition has been participating in a sing-along “Messiah.” It started with a large group of friends, few of us churchgoers, in Chicago. We’d gather a few weeks ahead of time to practice and then head down to Second Presbyterian on the Near South Side, bringing along some canned goods as donations. Afterward, I’d ask the more learned members of the group what the heck some of the things we sang about meant, like purifying the sons of Levi or why it would be so difficult to endure/abide the day of the messiah’s coming.

These days, I sing along at First Presbyterian in Arlington, walking distance from my home. Some years, my sister comes along; other years, I go alone and chat up some other women in the alto section. I know a bit more about the Bible these days and understand all too well how people might have longed for the Messiah… and yet, at the same time, not been so sure his coming would be a good thing for them and the way they lived. Messiahs are funny that way; when they come to redeem you, some internal and external change generally needs to accompany that redemption.

And so, as we prepare for the joyful arrival of that helpless little baby, consider what not only his coming but also his life and death have meant to people for the past two thousand years. Consider what his coming means to you, today, right now, in the coming year? How will you as a Christian, be purified? What will you let go of? What will you embrace? What will it take for you to be able to stand when he comes again?

As the final rush of pre-Christmas activities winds down, carve out ten minutes of alone time with Jesus. Ask him for help with the purification you both know you need.

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