Lo, I am sending my messenger
To prepare the way before me…
Lo, I will send you
Elijah, the prophet,
Before the day of the Lord comes,
The great and terrible day.
- Malachi 3:23-24
The words of the Prophet Malachi come at the very end of the Old Testament and, as Richard Rohr, O.F.M., observes, they form a perfect segue to the New Testament:
They describe the one who will be the fitting precursor for any coming Messiah. Christians have, of course, usually applied this passage to John the Baptist, as Jesus himself and the Gospel writers already had done... [Malachi] describes the work of the God Messenger as both 'great and terrible,' both wonderful and threatening at the same time. It is not that the Word of God is threatening us with fire and brimstone, but rather it is saying that goodness is its own reward and evil is its own punishment. (From Preparing for Christmas).
However much we might we might want it to be otherwise, the prayers and Readings of the Mass for December 23 remind us that we are still in Advent. And the words of Malachi highlight for us the power of the One who is to come:
And suddenly there will come to the temple / the Lord whom you seek, / and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
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 a refiner's fire, / or like the fuller's lye.Although most Christians celebrate December 25 as the "birthday" of Jesus, the liturgy in the final days of Advent challenges us to really reflect on the One whom we will welcome in a special way as we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is not only about recalling the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago, but it's also about recognizing how Christ comes to us in so many mysterious ways in our own time and celebrates how he will come again in glory at the end of time.
|A contemporary icon of Emmanuel -|
"A child shall be born for us,
and he shall be called God, the Almighty;
every tribe of the earth shall be blest in him."
- Entrance Antiphon for December 23
Throughout this Holy Season, the great prophet John the Baptist has continued to point out for us the One who is the Lamb of God (cf. John 1:29-30): Emmanuel.
In these final hours of waiting, ask John the Baptist, the "prophet of the Most High" (Luke 1:76), to help you be worthy to welcome the Promised One at Christmas.
A Prayer for December 23 + O Emmanuel
O Emanuel, king and lawgiver,
desire of the nations,
Savior of all people,
come and set us free, Lord our God.