Malachi

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. 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 NRSV)

Reflection

We’re somewhat familiar with this passage, thanks to a superfluity of exposure to Handel’s Messiah.  It raises more questions than it answers.  What do we mean by “will suddenly come to his temple?”  Why the adverb “suddenly”?  But this coming is “suddenly” and “something in which we delight.”  Why?

First century Judea was in the grip of Rome.  It was occupied territory.  Any Roman soldier could command any Jew to carry his pack for a mile, to give one example.  (Jesus, of course, demanded that any of His followers carry the pack two miles.)  What would the Jews have done to rid themselves of the Roman yoke?

The Messiah was the answer.  The Messiah—the Anointed One, the Christos—would liberate them from Roman rule, would appear in terrible splendor.  “Who can stand when he appears?”  Certainly not the hated Romans.

Thus the Messiah came, not as the conqueror in chariots of fire, but as a tiny, helpless baby.  Nor did He cast off the Roman oppression immediately.  This was not what people expected.  This was the expression of God’s love, which in the end conquered the Roman oppression in ways that could not have been believed.  “Who could endure the day of His coming?”

Prayer
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us.
Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy upon us. Amen.
(The Trisagion)