the Advent promise of holiness

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

Malachi 3:1-4

Advent brings with it the promise of a purging of all impurity and a thorough and complete holiness. The passage from Malachi was fulfilled in part at Jesus’ first coming, John the Baptist being the messenger promised before the coming of the Lord. The completion of that awaits the Lord’s second coming, which will bring further and final judgment along with the final salvation. Of course we know this salvation was completed once for all on the cross in Jesus’ death and resurrection. What is meant here is the final, completed realization of what that means for us in Jesus and for the world.

We in Jesus are aware that though we’ve received God’s work of holiness, that we are now in a process of sanctification, of being made holy, which means set apart to God. Our purity is in Jesus, who at his coming made the impure “clean,” by his word and even his touch on people. But we are also all too well aware of the fact that our holiness is not yet complete. We are in process, but we find that which is not righteous in our hearts and actions. Advent is a reminder to us of God’s promise of the completion of that work in us, when Jesus returns. Of the purging going on now, along with, we might say, that final purging.

In the meantime, as scripture tells us, we’re to prepare ourselves, to prepare our hearts for that coming:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

1 John 3


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