The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight – indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? (Malachi 3:1-2)
As we heard on Sunday, God’s coming into the world is not always a happy and fun occasion. Indeed, for a world convinced it’s got everything under control, being flipped upside down will definitely throw you for a loop.
In this case, the prophet Malachi is speaking not of the arrival of the Christ-child, but of his messenger. The one who will prepare the way in the wilderness.
This year we get the nice gentle version of Luke. Remember that Luke actually gives an account of the birth narrative of John, as Jesus’ own cousin, who recognizes the Christ even in-utero. And the lectionary chooses to leave out that lovely little section just after the Baptizer appears – the one where we get to hear what he has to say. I suggest reading it at some point (Luke 3) because then we can understand the prophet Malachi’s warnings.
On this, the second Sunday in Advent, we have the opportunity to consider how God prepares the way in the wilderness. Like the reality of this season where we often project perfection, the truth of how God gets our attention and does the road work is quite messy. So we have the chance to sit in the rubble and ponder what we will do next.
Our second Advent candle is named “peace.” Seemingly odd given the sermon passages. And yet, like God’s grace pulling us into thoughtful steps towards the kingdom last weekend, the peace we will celebrate this weekend is the hard-won, true peace that can only come with the presence of justice. It is the peace that will last. It is a peace only God can bring. And it is that peace which we seek.
So prepare the way of the Lord! Make the valleys high and the mountains low. Shift the ground around you until you find God in the midst of the mess – that is usually where God is leading us. And then remember: God loves to come into our well-ordered season and stir things up.