There is a caution in the readings for today. It’s about promise and possibility but also about responsibility for what is given. The psalmist seems eager when he sings: Your way, O Lord, make known to me. Teach me your paths! It reminds me of how enthusiastically I sing O come, O come, Emmanuel…with the image in my head of a sweet baby in a cradle of straw – no thought to the entire package of His coming. The implication of the seriousness of the Incarnation of Christ is foretold in the book of Malachi, which is what caught me this morning. When it speaks of the Lord coming soon, it then asks a question.
Who can stand when He appears? For He is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver…”
What it does not say but what is patently clear is that WE are the silver that needs refining. Perhaps we are like Zachariah in this morning’s gospel who heard something from God (Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her old age) that was just too incredible to trust as true revelation. We know what happened to him! His refining took place all during the months before the birth of John the Baptist when he couldn’t speak. It was during that time, surely, that he learned the depth of what it means to trust and to serve the Lord.
In the very brief time left before Christmas, can we make ourselves ready for this force, this refining fire? Can we bring ourselves to a willingness to trust that whatever needs still to happen in order that we might be purified of the dross of our lives is for our good? Although the refining process will go on, today is the perfect day to stand up and step toward the fire of the One who loves us mightily and knows our deepest beauty and value.