1 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10 to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
For this Second Sunday of Advent the themes of preparation, purification, and repentance shine through the Scripture readings. The prophet Malachi declares that a messenger will “prepare the way” for the Lord, and then asks two very important questions: Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? (vs. 2a). He adds that this messenger will be like a “refiner’s fire” and a “fullers’ soap” (vs. 2b). This reading challenges us to reflect on our own lives, our own church, our own community and ask: What will God’s refining look like? How is God purifying us as his people?
The second reading is from Luke and is a hymn or canticle often referred to as Zechariah’s song or the Benedictus. It is one of six such offerings of praise in the infancy narratives of Luke 1-2. Unlike the other five, which focus directly on the birth of Jesus, Zechariah’s canticle honors John the Baptist’s birth as a sign of what is done and what is to come. This prophetic song separates neatly into two parts. In verses 68-75, he praises the God of Israel for fulfilling God’s covenant to God’s people; in verses 76-79, Zechariah gives his son a broad job description: “you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways (vs 76),” “give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins (vs. 77).” This description echoes the words of Malachi whose spoke of a messenger that would prepare the way of the Lord. This songs inspires us to praise God for his amazing deeds and for his covenant faithfulness.
The third reading is from a the introduction to a letter by the apostle Paul to the Philippians. One author writes: Pastor Allen Hilton writes: On this Second Sunday of Advent, as Malachi shouts from the mountaintop his prophecy that God is a refining fire, Paul whispers from prison his prayer that God will help Philippian Christians to become pure and blameless. Paul speaks confidently that “the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (vs. 5).” Like the Philippian believers, we know that God is purifying, refining, bringing about this good work of sanctification as we are conformed more and more to the image of Christ. We know this process of growing in love will be ongoing until the day of Christ’s return.
The Gospel reading is again from the book of Luke and introduces the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist. Kathy Beach-Verhey writes: Advent is a season of preparation. At home people are cleaning, getting out their Christmas decorations, purchasing a tree, baking, hosting and attending parties, and simply getting ready for Christmas. But into our “busy-ness” each year enters John the Baptist. He interrupts our schedules and demands that preparations of a different kind be made… John challenges Advent people with a message of personal and corporate self-examination. Advent, John reminds us, is a time to prepare to welcome Jesus and not simply our invited Christmas houseguests.
During this season of Advent as we behold our Savior, may God ignite our hearts with fervent worship and prayer, refine us and mold us into his image even as we await, with joy and anticipation, the day of his return.
Questions for Further Reflection
1. Reflecting on the message of Paul and the prophets, how is God refining you, purifying you? How do you see God sanctifying you and completing the good work he began in you?
2. What “song of praise” are you singing in your life today? Where, like Zechariah, do you see God’s faithfulness, rescue, and restoration?
3. Can you identify some areas of your life that need an adjustment of priority? Is the busyness of your life squelching your walk with the Lord?
Based on Philippians 3:6, 9-11
we know that you, who began a good work among us,
will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
During this Advent season, may our love overflow
more and more with knowledge and full insight
to help us to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ
we may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.