Advent — coming close to the fire

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. 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 4:1-2 (ESV)

The blaze that hurts the arrogant, heals the humble. The same fire that destroys the wicked actually delivers those who revere God. This imagery in Malachi 4 reminds me of a George MacDonald quote about divine fire:

“The fire of God, which is His essential being, His love, His creative power, is a fire unlike its earthly symbol in this, that it is only at a distance it burns—that the further from Him, it burns the worse.”

George MacDonald

Only at a distance does divine fire burn.  The closer we come to the burning heart of God, the less painful His purification is.  The Hebrew word for “wings” in Malachi 4:2 could also be translated as “skirt” or “hem” or “edge.”  Healing awaits us in the fiery folds of our Lord’s garments. Remember the healing in the hem of Jesus’ robe?  Remember what Jesus said to John’s inquiring disciples?  

“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.”

Matthew 11:4-5 (ESV)

That sounds like pretty good reason to frolic like a well-fed calf!  

I love that the early Church chose the bleakest, darkest days of the year to celebrate the Incarnation.  What better time could there be to remember our need for the Light of the World?  May we not hide in the shadows, fearful of divine fire.  As we shiver on these cold December days, may we be driven closer to God’s burning presence that longs to envelop and transform us!

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