Years ago “Magic Eye” pictures became extremely popular. Remember those? If you stared at the picture long enough a 3D image would pop out from the background seemingly coming straight at you. They were extremely frustrating pictures if you couldn’t relax your eye enough to finally see what you were supposed to see. This passage in Malachi has a similar effect. What did this have to do with Christmas, with me, with Advent? The longer I stared, though, the more certain words popped out from the background: send, messenger, prepare.
The prophet Elijah is a well-known character in scripture (you can read his story in the book of 1 Kings and the start of 2 Kings). He was certainly a messenger in his day – relaying messages to kings and queens directly from God. In the second chapter of 2 Kings we read that Elijah is caught up to heaven and never dies. This led to the common belief that perhaps Elijah would some day reappear. The prophet Malachi is familiar with this idea and references him in 5:5 of todays reading. But, it wouldn’t be Elijah that would be sent again as a messenger or to prepare the way.
Luke 1 tells the story of the birth of John the Baptist. The angel, speaking to John’s father, Zechariah, uses these same words from Malachi 5 in his announcement of John the Baptist’s birth. Luke 1:17 reads, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” John the Baptist would be sent as a messenger to prepare the people for the One who was to come, Jesus.
Elijah was a messenger, a prophet, sent from God; John was a messenger sent from God to prepare the way and make known the way to God. The way to God was through His Son, Jesus, who was sent to earth at Christmas a long time ago. John and Jesus grew up and began to preach a message of repentance. It was available to all who would hear the message and open their hearts. Many put their faith in Jesus as a result of this messenger, John the Baptist, who was sent to go ahead of Jesus and prepare the way.
So where is this all going, and what does this passage have to do with me at Advent? Well, God is sending a message to you and the question is: are you looking for it? If we stare long enough into the picture the important things will come out from the background just as they did in those “Magic Eye” pictures. Everything else fades and we focus on the most important message of this season.
You see the messengers may have changed, but the message of repentance is still being preached today. It’s still available to all who would hear and open their hearts. Jesus has prepared a way for us to know God. God is sending a message to you in the form of His Son. Look closely and see again the real message of Christmas, Jesus, and then take time to respond.