The book of Malachi is the last in the Old Testament. Written after the return from exile, one might expect to find it full of the good news that the people of Israel have finally grasped the fullness of God’s love for them and are sticking with their covenantal promises!
But it’s the same old story …
… treacherous dealings by a corrupt priesthood,
intermarriage with unbelievers,
God’s love for sinners wrongly interpreted
as permission to sin ….
You know whose story is not the same? Zechariah and Elizabeth’s. We read in the Gospel of Luke that he was an upstanding priest, an honourable man; that they both walked in truth and righteousness, according to God’s commands.
They were faithful – to God and to one another. Yet Elizabeth was barren.
In those days, her inability to bear children would have been interpreted as a curse from God, a judgement for some secret sin.
For years, she would have been a subject of gossip and speculation – as though the pain of being childless and the strain upon her marriage was not enough!
But, as God had done with Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah before, an unexpected miracle occurred – the news of a son who would be a joy and delight to them and to many …
… bringing the people of Israel back to God, yet again;
softening hearts in the style and strength of Elijah;
kindling devotion and understanding, even among the sceptics;
getting the people ready for God
Well, Zechariah wasn’t ready for this news! As much as he had walked closely with God for all those years, he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe what he was hearing (read a bit beyond today’s text to the end of verse 20).
I wonder if the Israelites were ever truly ready. They were ready for liberation, ready for restoration, ready for land and blessing … but were they ready for the demands and obligations of a covenantal relationship with their Saviour?
This season of Advent is the time in which we get ourselves ready for the coming of the Christ-child and the coming-again of the Christ-King.
That getting ready has very little to do with stocking a pantry or putting up a tree or working out what time Christmas lunch should be if we want to attend a church service first.
It’s all about keeping the promises we make. To God. To ourselves. To others.
And it’s about praying in faith over and over and over again for the places of barrenness and brokenness in our lives and in the lives of those we love.
It’s about making time for “lost causes” – through time gained not listening to or spreading gossip maybe?
It’s about believing in miracles and being God’s good news to someone who needs a little hope, a little help.
It’s about thinking beyond Christmas to what it means to live in an everlasting covenant with the Maker, the Saviour, the Sustainer of our lives.
Today, do something to help yourself or another get ready for the gift of Christ’s coming.