A Reflection on Malachi and the Lord showing up

Today’s first reading is from Malachi 3:1-4.

Do we really want God to show up suddenly?

When God shows up, according to Malachi, God is doing more than just acting on our behalf. God isn’t a superhero, moving us from danger and letting us live like was always have. When God shows up, God’s intervention grows. Being with God is like being a lump of rock taken to a blacksmith shop or smelter. From God’s first interaction with us to our last, God is busy refining that lump of rock into something new. When we’re claimed by God in our baptism, we’re tossed into a refiner’s fire. This experience isn’t easy. We rarely want to feel like we need to be refined. We might admit to a few problems we have or rough edges but we assume God can take a little sandpaper to us and, in a few moments, smooth us out. But refining takes more. It involves struggle and conflict, doubt and fear, joys and confusion. It can involve tough questions and tougher experiences. We can turn from God only to be turned right back, finding ourselves facing God face-to-face. This is an experience of God that is difficult to put into a stain glass window because when God shows up, God refines and purifies.

But what is God refining and purifying us into? That question is part of the mystery of this season. The description of God’s presence above fits well into an image of God as powerful and strong, molding us in a blacksmith shop that’s filled with steam, flame, and iron. But, when God shows up on December 25, God isn’t iron. God is a babe. This is who will refine us. This is who will change us. This is who will get us to be honest with ourselves and our need to be refined. This Christ will make us uncomfortable but we won’t be left there. Once the refining begins, we can’t be left where we were. The good news, as Professor Anne Stewart writes, is that we “will be reformed and refined” and to become, as Martin Luther shared, a Christ for our neighbors and our world.

Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, 12/06/2015.