December 8 - Isaiah 40:5
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
And so, the people are told that the Lord’s ‘glory’, His ‘Presence’ will be seen and known, experienced by the exiles. And not just because this is what the prophet has said, this announcement and all the precedes it is utterly reliable because “the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it”. How often has a parent ended a discussion (a losing argument) with a child with the phrase “because I said so!”. But here the prophet is confident, as we can be confident in our words of comfort and assurance to anyone who feels lost, abandoned, and forgotten by family, friends, community and even God, that God will come, and come in gentle loving power: “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” Isaiah 40:11.
December 9 - Haggai 2:6,7
Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Yet once, a little while and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.
Haggai is a minor prophet, with a small book, barely a letter with all of two chapters encompassing 35 verses. The exiles have been freed from Babylon by King Darius of Persia who has conquered the Babylonians. They’ve have returned to Judah and Jerusalem and are beginning to rebuild their lives, but it is not easy. The crops are poor, and the people are barely scrapping by. It is at this time that God demands that the people rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. A few elderly returnees would have remembered the former majesty of the temple, the younger people would barely comprehend the magnitude of the task before them. But these verses remind them who is in control and who it is that has a purpose for his people.
These are hard days for many, and it would seem to be enough just to get by and stay safe and bubbled for better days ahead. Still God calls us as we can to continue to build his Kingdom, he has a plan and a purpose for us. The people of Haggai’s community endured because they trusted God was with them, that he was in control and that he would be victorious over the nations, and the glory would be his. So we too can trust Haggai’s God, our God, who is still with us and in control and as the manger and cross prove he is victorious. May the glory be his!
December 10 - Malachi 3:1
The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.
The book of Malachi is one of the Old Testament books known as the minor prophets. He lived around the same time as prophets such as Ezra and Nehemiah and he was sent from God to encourage the people to turn back to God and to mend their ways. The earlier renewal that arrived with the reconstruction of the temple had dimmed. Malachi, the Hebrew word for ‘the messenger’ knows that the people though are still looking for God. But is the god they seek the God that they will meet.
We all have our own expectations of God; in many ways we tend to fashion in him in our own image rather than the other way around. For some people, their god reflects their desires, sometimes for a friend, a non-judgmental overseer, a miracle worker, a divine genie. As Christians we all seek God, but we need to see him as he is, loving but also stern, forgiving and yet demanding, bestower of grace and yet seeking holiness. Let the God we seek be the God we need and not the one the one of our baser desires.
December 11 - Malachi 3:2
But who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.
During 2020 the idea of being pure is part of our COVID culture. We want everything sanitized so we can stay safe and well. We scrub our hands and clean everything we touch with great gusto to avoid contamination. But being purified by fire is something much more intense. Metal is heated to such a high, constant temperature that it transforms into a molten state. Any impurities are skimmed off the top and promptly thrown away. Christ is referred to in Malachi as a refiner's fire. This implies that He is willing to hold us to the flames until we are holy. Does this sound like fun? The good news is that Jesus walks through the fire with us, not to watch us squirm, but because He loves us and wants the best for us, transforming us into his likeness. So, when life continues to turn up the heat we should try and see ourselves being changed into the finest silver or the purest gold. And who doesn't love shiny things?