The Fire and the Light
Malachi means “my messenger.” Writing under cover of the generic, Malachi delivers the blunt message that renders prophets as suspect in their communities: now is the time to face our deeds and repent, to make right our relationship to God and return to our senses. The one who comes next will bring fire. The fire will consume our excuses and reduce mediocrity to ash. Be ready for the fire next time.
Zechariah was a humble man. A priest, he performed the rituals of the sanctuary for many years. But his faithful spirit was stretched by what the angel revealed that day in the temple. There must be some mistake. Surely he and Elizabeth were too old to conceive. Being resigned had grown familiar. Living in expectation had faded with the years. God gave the future father the discipline of silence from that day until the child was born. Shut off from words, he could no longer conduct rituals. In silence, Zechariah regained his senses. Like a child, he learned again to listen and see. There was so much he had missed about the world. When his voice returned at the naming of John, Zechariah burst into praise.
Messengers still come. We are a skeptical people, and God devises new ways to interrupt our doubts and wake us up. Maybe it is the comedian who peels the blinders off our eyes. Maybe it is the winter sun that reveals every twisting branch on the trees outside the window. Maybe it is the crowds of people throughout the world who cry out for justice. Maybe it is gathering at the altar to give thanks. God calls us through fire and light. Like Zechariah, we must quiet down so we can hear again. A light has come that is not of our own making. When this truth finally dawns on us, like Zechariah, we give praise
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