Malachi – Advent 2

imagesPraying the Collect of the Day can be meaningful. Each Sunday, and for that week, the collect is a prayer that collects the congregation’s petitions into one plea. Like a laser beam it focuses on one request. This prayer becomes your own by saying “Amen!” The Second Sunday in Advent’s collect is beautiful:

“Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son, that by His coming we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds” (LSB).

Stir up our hearts, O Lord! Wake them up! It’s so easy for our hearts to be weighed down. Jesus warned: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day [that is, Judgment Day] come upon you suddenly like a trap” (Luke 21:34). Our hearts are easily distracted, various life events and activities,  by wasting our energy in meaningless activities, and by things that harm us but bring temporary pleasures, which numbs our minds. Our hearts are also easily dismayed by the daily news. The troubles that surround us are a blunt reminder: “Heaven and earth will pass away!” But let the Lord stir up your heart. Jesus also tells us, “but My words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to live on the foundation You built—on the truth of Your saving work. Your kingdom will not end. Your promises will never fail.

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, is the point of Malachi. Malachi means “my messenger.” That is, “the Lord’s Messenger.” Malachi is the last book of Old Testament, because he’s the last prophet of the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit “spoke by the prophets,” serving up over a thousand-year feast of God’s Word from Moses through Malachi. After Malachi, it’s a 400-year fast until John the Baptist’s voice sounds.

Malachi is faithful to the Lord’s promise. Faith and trust in the Lord’s promises seemed bleak. Not many were around for regular worship. Talk was on earthly things rather than faith and trust in the promise. This world is broken and dark. But wait! A rescue is coming: “They shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up My treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him” (Malachi 3:17). “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch” (Malachi 4:1). Stir up our hearts, O Lord, by teaching that You know our burdens and You defend us.

Stir up our hearts O Lord, by Christ’s coming! As Malachi continues: “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:2). The Lord makes a distinction. Very concerning and troubling news for the unrepentant. They will be stubble, without even the roots. But to those who fear Him, those who have trust in the gift of the Gospel, He gives great promises. So fear His name, that is, know your sin. Know He has the right to destroy you. Repent, and cling to Him our only hope. And “for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.”

The Sun of Righteousness is Jesus Christ—God of God, Light of light.

On of the first pastor’s conferences when we moved out here was in Morrow Bay. As we drove near the beach, all these cars were pulling off the road, toward the beach. We couldn’t tell why. So we turned in to see what was going on. It was this stunning sunset—brilliant orange, red, and pink. People were all over the place interrupting their schedule to look at the sunset. We stayed and watched and even recorded it with our camera. They were all drawn to this beautiful light. And as I looked at them it struck me they were all orange, red, and pink. They reflected the light they faced. That light changed them. Sadly, it didn’t last but a few minutes.

Not one person was turned toward the darkness behind. Even here, often I see your posts and pictures of stunning sunsets and sunrises, never facing into the darkness. But this is how it is always with the Holy Christian Church. As we approach the shortest days of the year, the longest moments of darkness in the year, all Christians are facing Christ, the Sun of righteousness, the Light of the world. And we all are reflecting Him in this dark world. Jesus said both, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12) and “You are the light of world” (Matthew 5:14). Our reflection of the Sun of righteousness draws people out of darkness into this marvelous light.  Reflecting Christ our Savior you “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus shines through you to all the darkened world.

He shines with full, perfect righteousness, goodness. He shines not only righteousness as eternal God but also His complete righteousness as the only good, fully loving man ever to walk this earth. He shines with perfect light, not to blind those who fear Him, but to heal them. The wings of the sun are its rays. The wings of the Sun of Righteousness—Christ Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem, the bearer of our sin on Calvary’s tree—are His mercies coming to you to heal you. On that Last Day those rays will shine such healing on you who trust in Him that every physical pain and weakness will be banished. Your soul and mind will never desire sin or chase after the hollow holiday cheer that this world offers as a pale substitute for real joy. Your desire will be the Lord, and He will fill the desires of your heart.

Christ’s healing rays also shine this very day, though not in a light that the world can see. Like invisible infrared rays, even today your Savior shines His healing work into you. It is hidden under human words, bread, wine, and water. But trust what He says, and see by the eyes of faith. Christ Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, bore all your sin, and has lived a perfect life in your place, died and rose to be untouched by death ever again. He delivers all His forgiveness and righteousness to you precisely in this gloomy world. This light, as Luther writes,

It is the Sun of righteousness, who justifies, who sends out the sort of rays that make men righteous and free from their sins, who drives out every harmful attitude of fleshly lust. Those rays are the Word of the Gospel, which penetrates hearts and is seen as that Sun only by the eyes of the heart, that is, by faith. It is closer to the righteous than is that visible, physical sun. You see, it shines by the Holy Spirit. It shines day and night. Clouds do not hinder it. It is always rising. (Luther’s Works, vol. 18 [St. Louis: Concordia, 1975], 417–18)

Stir up our hearts O Lord, by the joy Christ gives us! “You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:2). “Calves from the stall,” means there’s plenty to eat. Sheep in the Middle East had to scrounge for some scrubby grass, but stall-fed calves had it easy. They had room service. You too! Our Lord brings the feast to you in the Word of Christ, Baptism, and the forgiving body and blood of Christ.

“You shall go out leaping” is that Christians get to “go out” as calves do. When spring comes, the calves set free from the barn jump and kick in the light and spring air. So it will be on that Last Day for you who trust the Lord. You will jump for joy, basking in the healing rays of Christ. Today, too, forgiven, freed, basking in the forgiving, healing rays of Christ, don’t head for the corners—sadness confines us. Lift up your heads, the king of glory, the Savior of the world is here. Life and salvation He brings. He stirs us up to live confidently in Christ’s forgiving joy.

He knows our sin, our doubts, and our fears fears. He knows the darkness that surrounds us. He dearly loves us. Christ and the Spirit intercede for us. Our loving Lord stirs up our hearts by the healing rays of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness. He rises with healing in His wings of mercy. He is comes and sets us free forever!

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