For some Christmas hope seems like a bit of a pipe dream. Maybe you feel that you are trying to please too many people during the holidays. They still won’t be happy, and you will be exhausted. Maybe you cope with loss at the holidays. Or you have been waiting and praying to hear from God, yet he seems silent.
It’s a little funny that the first Christmas was marked by hustle and bustle and busyness as well. The city of Bethlehem was so busy and full that there was no bed for a pregnant woman in labor. I want to look a little earlier for a reason for Christmas hope though. I want to start 400 years earlier than that day in the stable.
A small remnant had returned from the 70 year exile. It was an exile born of disobedience. God’s people refused him and his law, generation after generation. Now, after returning to their homeland, they had corrupted their worship of him again. Malachi has come with a last plea to the people of Israel, to return to God. He lists three sins that have become common in the nation, and calls for change.
This is the last word of the Lord that the people would have for 400 years. This famine of the Lord’s words (Amos 8:11) must have been demoralizing for anyone faithful during this time. They may have wondered if they ever would hear from God again.
The Lord of Hosts
I wonder how many times they returned to read this last message from the Lord of Hosts. This is the name used for God through this message. I had to look it up. It can be translated as the Lord of Armies, or even the Lord of Angel Armies. The first time the word for host appears in Scripture, is Genesis 2:1, to describe God’s finished creation. The God of every molecule in the galaxy sent Malachi to tell the people to return to him.
This is a message to a people who had done some pretty despicable things. They submitted to terrrible kings and worshipped terrible gods. It would be understandable if God wrote them off. Yet, he decides to leave them with a message of hope.
Two Part Christmas Hope
First he tells them in chapter 3, that he will visit his temple himself after sending a messenger ahead of him. This is a message of hope, but with a caveat; he will be as a refiner’s fire and fullers soap. These are both harsh cleansing techniques. They will leave nothing behind except the purest of what is desired.
Think of the dirtiest thing you can imagine. The sewer of my life will be refined and purified like gold? Without God’s hand in my life, my offerings look a lot like the corrupted offerings of the Israelites that Malachi condemns. The process of being refined is uncomfortable, but God wants to make me into something precious, and valuable, something that is useful and desirable!
Second, in chapter three and in chapter four, God promises to send Elijah. Israel expected an Elijah to return to proclaim the coming Messiah. This Messiah was to be the savior of the people. Israel expected someone who would free them from Rome and restore the Promised Land. I’m so thankful that Jesus would be so much more than that. After this message, God was silent until he spoke through his angel to Zecheriah in the temple 400 years later.
Why is Malachi Important to Me?
Friend, this may seem like something that happened a long time ago and so far away from you that it has little bearing on your worries over who will bring the mashed potatoes this Thursday, or whether you can afford the gift your kid most wants for Christmas. God used his perfect timing to bring Jesus into this world after that 400 year silence. God has a perfect plan for you too. Christmas is the celebration of God’s perfect plan for every person on earth.
John the Baptist, the Elijah predicted in Malachi, would shout “prepare the way of the Lord.” This Christmas, your celebration of Christ’s birth is a chance to prepare for God to refine and change your life. This is our hope, that Jesus came to die for our sins. We have the way to life instead.
Don’t Forget Your Kid’s Christmas Discipleship Bundle
This is a great time of year, to help your kid understand God’s message of hope in the Bible. If you are looking for a simple way to talk about this with your kids, check out my Kid’s Christmas Discipleship Bundle. It is full of daily devotions, for December, song links, and activities and lots more to help your family focus on the meaning behind Christmas.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.