Making Room for Hope
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. 2But 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; 3he 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. 4Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
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, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as 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. 5Every 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; 6and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
When I was a little kid, in this time of every year I was so worried and anxious about Santa Claus. I really loved him. I waited for him to come for the whole year like every day. And by the time he’d come approaching, my anxiety level went up because I was so worried and cared about him who had to go to every kid’s house in the world on one night. To make my worries worse, my house didn’t have chimney at the time, which is normally known as a place where Santa uses to visit kids, so I was so worried about him who might need to break the window to come to me like a thief. So I always unlock the windows and the doors to help Santa to come into my home before going to bed. Mom didn’t like me doing that. Anyway, he always found my house and came to me with amazing gifts! The next morning, on the Christmas Day, I was always pleased with the gift that Santa delivered to me. All my days waiting during the whole year were always paid with the gifts.
Today’s scripture is telling us that there was a guy who was unlocking all the windows and all the doors of Israel to prepare Jesus’ coming. His name is John and his nickname is the Baptist because he was baptizing people to help the Israel people to prepare for meeting the Messiah. Right, John the Baptist was the one who was preparing for Jesus’ coming, cleaning people’s chimney, unlocking all the windows and doors so that they wouldn’t miss Jesus is coming to them.
John the Baptist appears on stage in all four gospels. In Matthew, he has to wait in the wings until our main character, Jesus, has been introduced, cooling his heels through two long chapters of genealogy, birth, visit of the magi, escape to Egypt, massacre of the innocents and return from Egypt. After all the explanation about Jesus, John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’” However Luke starts its account with John the Baptist in chapter 1.
The time John the Baptist was proclaiming God’s word was one of the most difficult times that people of Israel have gone through, the period under the exploitation and dictatorship of Roman empire, but John the Baptist was not delivering the comforting, soft words of God; rather he urged people to repent their sins.
Now let’s get back to Malachi. He was the last prophet in the Old Testament. After Malachi, there had been no prophet coming to Israel for about 400 years. After the 400 years of silence, John the Baptist appeared, the Messiah’s forerunner. Malachi did the same thing that John the Baptist did. When Malachi was prophesizing, the Israel just returned from Babylon after at least 70 years in the exile in Babylon. The people had been restored to Jerusalem and the temple and walls rebuilt. The people of Israel had longed for return to Jerusalem and restoration of their nation, but the reality was different from what they expected for. Nothing was left, and there was nothing to hope for. The Israel was so disappointed and wandering with no hope. At the moment, Malachi was prophesizing to all Israel and mainly what he proclaimed was that the Messiah is coming, so we should continue to believe that regardless what situation they were in. Just like me who unlocks all the windows and doors for Santa’s coming, Malachi was also cleaning up the house of Israel, unlocking the windows and doors so that the Israel people can continue to hope for the Messiah’s coming. John the Baptist and Malachi are not the only prophets who proclaim to Israel to continue to hope for Jesus’ coming; there are many other prophets like Isaiah also proclaim Jesus’ coming and the new hope that Jesus will bring to us. In the midst of the difficult times in Israel history, prophets comforted Israel people not to lose their hope that Christ is coming. Christ is our only hope that we can expect to see. You know, we all go through tough times. At times we all go through our crisis, uncertainties. We may have a loved one with health concern. We may lose our jobs. A relationship goes bad. Just on and on and on….
The Good news is that we are never alone. We are loved. We are always forgiven. This good news is the hope that we can find in Jesus and the season of Advent always reminds us.
At the year I was turning nine, one day my mom sat me down and told me that there is no Santa Claus in the world. All the gifts that I had been given were all from mom and dad. She went on to say that now you are a big girl so you won’t have to get any gifts any more for Christmas.
Guess how much I got shocked when I was told that. I couldn’t even sleep for a couple of days. I just couldn’t believe that my Santa was not real. Santa Claus is false hope that doesn’t exist. He was everything to me! I still remember the Christmas Eve in the year I was turning nine years old. I woke up several times at night to see if Santa Claus was coming or not like my mom said. Right, Santa Clause didn’t come that night and the next day, the Christmas Day was one of the saddest days in my early childhood days. My year-long hope for Santa Claus’ coming became nothing.
But the good things for us who are waiting for Messiah’s coming is that our hope for Jesus is not in vain. The hope is real. One pastor told me the difference between a wish and a hope. We use the verb hope when something is very possible. On the other hand, we use the verb wish about impossible things or things that are not likely to happen (things that you don’t really expect to happen.)
Yes, we have hope that Jesus is coming. We hope what God will do in our lives. Our hopes are real. It is not like when I was waiting for Santa Claus coming. Our hope for Jesus is real.
In this time of Advent, we are waiting for baby Jesus to come to us on a silent night. DO you have room in your hearts for the baby Jesus? On the night Jesus was coming 2000 years ago, there was no room for him. I pray and I hope that on this Christmas, when the hope that Jesus has shown us is coming, our hearts and mind have room for the hope. Hope our hearts and minds are ready to conceive the hope within us.
I hope you make room in your hearts to see how God works in your life. You may pray, you may do some good things for others, or you may join Sunday worship. In your spiritual disciplines, you will be able to see your hope comes from God and the hope exists real. God is not Santa Claus; God exists and the hope that our life will be renewed in Jesus is real. Pray that hope remain in you and invite you to live in Christ in the time of this Advent!
Thanks be to God. Amen.