Advent MW2 December 8, 2021, St. John, New Orleans, LA
My daughter and I had just finished loading a bedroom set into a U-Haul we rented in Atlanta.
We were taking it to her house in Kansas City.
My brother-in-law from Chattanooga had joined us the evening before and helped me with some of the heavier dressers.
We closed up the truck, loaded our bags, and went to find Robb to say thank you and goodbye.
We found him on the floor of the basement.
He had apparently had a massive heart attack.
Despite our efforts to revive him and the work of the EMTs, he was gone.
I now had the horrible job of being the messenger of sad news to his wife,
my wife and her brother and sister,
and his mother, my mother in law.
Very often we are faced with being messengers of unwelcome news,
like the employer who notified 900 employees over zoom this last week that they were being laid off.
Maybe you had to tell your spouse that you were no longer pregnant, that you had a miscarriage?
Perhaps you had to tell your kids your summer vacation as family was cancelled?
Whatever it was, all of us have been challenged by being the messenger at times period
In our lesson for tonight there are two messengers prophesied.
The first is John the Baptist, and his message was different difficult to hear.
It was that everyone needed to repent of their sins
and to be baptized as a sign of their forgiveness.
But he also pointed them ahead to another messenger, Jesus.
Jesus is, “the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight” to which Malachi is referring.
certainly, as he is born in the Manger at Christmas, we know his arrival is upon us.
And when his parents present him in the temple,
Anna and Simion prophesied that God's promise to send the Messiah has come to pass.
Jesus also proclaimed the good news in his three year ministry before his death resurrection and ascension.
Therefore, there is certainly much to, “behold,” in this text from Malachi.
He wants us to behold the need for repentance prior to the messiah's arrival,
but he also wants us to behold the Messiah himself.
to really stop, appreciate, and give thanks
for what is being placed before us as well as the person through whom it is accomplished
Malachi, in verse 2, gives us the rhetorical question, “but who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?”
when the people come to John at the Jordan he said, “you brood of Vipers who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
because, when we behold God, and in turn, his messengers,
we must also behold His Holiness.
And when we compare ourselves with him, we are woefully unholy.
We are, indeed, poor, miserable, sinners.
Deserving of God's wrath.
Earning only death for our sins.
And John's baptism was specifically for those who were feeling God's wrath,
or, at least, understanding their compromised position in his presence,
and who desired an outward sign of their own repentance and sorrow for their sin.
But because Malachi also begs us to behold the Messiah, we can be comforted.
Because those who repent and believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins
will endure the coming judgement. and will be able to stand before God without shame.
We must keep in mind that the judgment of Christ will execute on the last day will be against unbelief, not sin.
However, unbelief manifests itself in sinful pursuits.
Many of which Malachi mentions in verse 5, which is the second paragraph on page 38 of the worship booklet.
Malachi also mentions a time of refinement and purification that will exist for, “the sons of Levi.”
This is referring to God's elect, his chosen ones, what we, today call, the church.
These are the trials and tribulations in our lives which test our resolve and our faith.
So that, in the end, we are so purely focused on Jesus
that we will be excellent specimens of faith, pleasing the Lord in every way.
But more specifically, Malachi says they will bring offerings in righteousness.
That is, the righteousness placed upon us as baptized believers
will make all we do for God pleasing and acceptable.
Because, without Jesus, they would be soiled rags and worthless to God.
And so, you and I, the spiritual descendants of the so called, “sons of Levi,”
having been refined by testing, and purified by the blood of Jesus,
are given a new heart for God by his Holy Spirit.
A heart which not only draws us to him by his word and sacraments,
but which also gives us a heart to do his will and follow his ways.
And just as the Levites were the example of faith set before all Israel to emulate,
we Christians are the example set before the world today.
To not only demonstrate what it means to follow God,
but to trust wholeheartedly in his love for us and his power to save us.
And it is in that respect that we become God's messengers for today.
At times, and usually at first, we need to point out sin and preach a call to repentance as John did.
Whether that means challenging another believer who isn't living like a believer,
or an unbeliever who is doing harm to another and showing disdain for God rule in their life.
But many times, the conscience has already preached the law loudly and clearly in someone's heart.
They know their sin and error and they feel deep shame and guilt for what they have done,
and they are looking for answers to renewing their lot in life.
And this is when we preach the gospel, as Jesus did.
to let them know that the Messiah, Jesus, paid for their sins.
And that they will no longer be judged against their deeds in life,
so long as they simply believe in Jesus,
his love of them,
and his forgiveness of their sins.