Words as flaming furnaces.
No, it’s not the advertisements for the newest Harry Potter movie, which is all the rage in U.S. theatres right now.
It’s Elijah, the great prophet, who stood up to King Ahab and Ahab’s infamous wife Jezebel, in a duel of cinematic proportions. Four hundred and fifty praying, dancing, and self-mutilating priests of Baal cannot match one devout follower of the God of Israel, who called fire down from the heavens to consume his sacrifice.
Sometimes, in our appreciation of captivating works of fiction, we forget that our Scriptural literature is filled with equally-captivating accounts of cosmic phenomena. We forget that this power far surpasses anything we can create in the movie theatre, because it is real power from a real God who loves us all very much.
Many are quick to focus on the spectacle and forget the message, as the disciples did when they threw this question to Jesus: “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
Clearly, they suspected that Elijah had not come, for wasn’t fire a necessary outcome for any encounter with the great prophet? Wouldn’t there have been a fiery special effects moment that could not possibly be ignored?
To which Jesus answers: “. . . but I tell you that Elijah has already come . . .”
It’s all about awareness. Anyone who reads the Biblical account of John the Baptist cannot help but take away a small spark of John’s fire as he prepared the way for the coming Messiah. The fire was there. It was real fire in the heart of a real person. The unquenchable flame – the spirit of Elijah -- was there for all who would care to warm themselves by it.
It is time for us, during this Advent season, to open ourselves to the often subtle ways that Jesus seeks to come into our lives. If we expect the coming of the Lord to be heralded with lightning bolts and thunder, we will most likely be disappointed. Yet, when we pray to encounter Christ a little more each day, and open ourselves to new ways that He can use to speak to us, we will not be disappointed.
I have always been profoundly surprised by the sheer creativity in the way the Lord greets me each day, if I let him. One day it was the joyous “high-five” from a mentally-challenged man who had just won a game. Another day it was the brief appearance of a splendidly-arrayed cock pheasant in my back yard – right in middle of the city! Yesterday it was an eye-to-eye hello from a disheveled man walking down the street by my house.
There have also been days when I’ve been too busy, too worried, too self-absorbed to look any further than the front of my nose. I’m sure Jesus was there, somewhere – everywhere – patiently offering himself to me.
Let’s wake up tomorrow and decide that it’s going to be one of those days where we open ourselves to the way Jesus wants to speak to us. Then, as we go about our busy lives, let’s watch. Let’s listen. Let’s wait.
Elijah has already come.
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