Advent Devotion for December 4, Second Sunday in Advent
In lighting the candle, the candle lighter says: “Look, I am sending you a prophet.”
SCRIPTURE: Malachi 4:4-6
4 “Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel.
5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. 6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
SCRIPTURE: Luke 1:5-17; 57-58; 65-66
5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
57 When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
SOME THOUGHTS: We live in a world where people are cynical, dishonest, indifferent, antagonistic, and downright evil. Then we graduate from kindergarten only to discover that nothing changes! Such was the prophet Malachi’s world. He preached repentance and a return to living by God’s Law, the Law given to Moses. Then the last verses of the Old Testament get specific, God is going to send a forerunner just ahead of the coming of the Messiah, the One to whom the whole Old Testament had been pointing. Elijah’s preaching will turn the hearts of the fathers. “Turning hearts” refers directly to repentance. In preparation for Messiah, people will repent. We see the fulfillment of Malachi’s words in Luke 1 in a perfect orchestration of events. Zechariah is visited by an angel (not a common occurrence) and is told he will become the father of a remarkable (miracle child) son. Furthermore, this son will be the fulfillment of Malachi 4. John the Baptist is the “Elijah” spoken of in Malachi. Being a priest, Zechariah surely knew this passage well. He was overwhelmed and found this hard to believe, and in fact, didn’t believe the angel. With it came a penalty, nine months of not being able to utter a sound. One can almost envision Zechariah’s coming out of the Temple dumbstruck, not being able to speak, and all of those who had been waiting for him going into a vigorous game of charades to figure out what had occurred! Then it happened. The son, John the Baptist, was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth in their old age. The point here is that though well over 400 years had passed between Malachi and Luke, God was faithful in exact detail. Something else to think about, the prophecies in the New Testament concerning the end of the age we live in are as certain. In Luke 20, Jesus spells out some of the things to look for prior to his Second Coming. Do you see how very beautifully God ties everything together?
The first coming of the Lord had plenty of warnings, yet most missed it. Let us live this day with repentant hearts, paying attention to all that is around us.
PRAYER: Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant, John the Baptist, was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Savior by preaching repentance; make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. — Book of Common Prayer