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When I read the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ offering of the lectionary readings for the day, I am occasionally stopped by a line or two that rankles or makes me squirm a little. We’re very close now to Christmas, the “feel-good” holiday. It’s surprising, I guess, that I would be experiencing the opposite feeling two days before Christmas. I’m singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and loving the titles given to Christ by Isaiah’s writings (e.g. O Radiant Dawn or O Key of David…) not expecting Malachi’s insertions of counterintuitive questions such as the following:

Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire…he will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi…

Does that include us? Must we leave our “heaven and nature” singing of “joy to the world” because “the Lord is come?” I think not, but there is a caution in this message from the prophet Malachi. Jesus was born into this world – this great and wonderful world – to show us the way to navigate all the joys and sorrows, the gifts and tests that help us grow into our true selves, to become more conscious with each turning of the earth that we are beings of light, made in the image of God, here to mirror that image to the world each day. The celebration of Christmas reminds us of the privilege and the responsibility of that birthing that is ours in imitation of the Christ who is coming to walk the path with us with new vigor each time we experience this commemorative moment.

The sun is strong this morning. Let us now prepare for Christmas, as the “Radiant Dawn” appears in the sky of our lives, offering to us the Word of Life!