Yesterday was the Advent Sunday of Joy, and at Graceview, we read a difficult passage in Malachi. As often happens with difficult passages, I had so much to say that I didn’t get to comment on the last few verses of the reading.
They go like this:
4Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. 5See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. Malachi 4:4-6
I was so wrapped up in the earliest verses of the reading, and there was so much to cover in those verses, that I had to make the decision not to comment on these verses (or I might have kept my congregation there all day – and that would have been a worse decision).
But as sometimes happens when I preach, I found the message of what I would have said if time had allowed, in the midst of preaching what I had written.
I want to focus on those two little words “or else” in verse 6. This is a difficult reading – a difficult passage. It sounds condemning and like God is being mean, to modern ears. “Or else,” is a threat in our modern language. If your Mom said “or else” to you as a kid, she didn’t have to finish what she was saying…you understood what it implied, and what it implied was punishment. Punishment and trouble and not something that you wanted to have to face.
But I don’t think this phrase is scripture is meant as a threat. I think it is simply a description of what life is like without Jesus. I think it tells us that we desperately need Jesus, that if Jesus had never come into the world, the world would be a worse mess than it is now. We would be without hope, in despair.
But the good news is – Jesus HAS come into our world. And when Jesus comes into our world, the fundament fabric of reality is changed. Malachi says the hearts of fathers will be turned back to their children, and children to their fathers. This is a way of saying that with Jesus in the world, relationships are restored. We know our world is still a mess – but we also know it could be so much worse.
And we know, that we are called to be those who work to make it better. As we try to follow Jesus, as we try to live in hope and peace and joy, we are called to look for every opportunity to bless others – to bring hope, peace and joy into their lives and into the world around us.
Jesus has come and is coming into our world – to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found!
This Advent, may you know the know the joy set before us in Jesus. May you find ways to bring blessing, wherever the curse has been found. May you be part of the light that shines in the darkness.