Lectionary Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent

Malachi 3: 1-4 The Compassionate Correction of Christ

This is the second Sunday of Advent. The candle we lit is often referred to as the candle of love. I believe above all else Christmas is about love. John 3:16 the most quoted verse in all the Bible states, “For God so loved”.

Love is the reason Jesus entered this world in the first place. During this season (during every season) our lives should reflect a growing compassion love. It should be out of love, not entitlement or expectation or any ego needs that we give gifts and send cards. It should be out of love that we celebrate the birth of the baby in Bethlehem. It is so easy to love Jesus during this time.

The baby in the manger is so innocent, so cute, so non-threatening. However, love is more than warm fuzzy feelings and a sweet sense of security. Love is commitment. Love is accountable. Love has responsibility and sometimes love must be corrective. Sometimes, to borrow a phrase, love must  be down right tough.

“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.1 (Job 5:17 NIV)

It is easy midst of the busy-ness that is the Christmas season to forget the reason Jesus came was because of a great human need. We were all going the wrong way. We were all headed away from God and toward an end without hope. Jesus came to give us a chance to be called and corrected. He came to point the way to the way things were meant to be.

But there is a problem. The way things ought to be often conflicts with the way we want things to be. When this happens, love must take corrective action.

In the passage we have read from Malachi, God lets the people know God is going to come and bring correction. God is going to clean and purify. God is going to set things right. Just as a parent who loves a child will correct, even punish the child, to try and change disobedient behavior, so is God is coming to bring correction. God is going to make us righteous. Not because God is an angry, vengeful, hard taskmaster, but because God knows our conditions better that we do and God desires to bring us to an understanding of what we really need.

God seeks to bring us to this state because of his love. Proverbs 3:12 states, “for the LORD disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in.” (Prov. 3:12 CSB)

How does God, the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit go about preparing us for what is to come? There is a process.

First, because God has loved us, Jesus has come to let us know our lives apart from God are wrong. Jesus’s words have the power to convicts. When Jesus came to Peter and demonstrated the power of God was with him, do you remember Peter’s response? Peter stated, “Lord go away because I am a sinful man. Jesus’s presence convicts us when we are not walking with God.

In helping people with spiritual direction one of the rules of discernment is that when we are in sin, the Holy Spirit troubles our conscience. When explaining the ministry of the Holy Spirit Jesus again tells us, “When he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: (Jn. 16:8 NIV)

Conviction is a call to change. There is a classic hymn, Love Lifted Me, that goes, “I was sinking deep in sin” and that is our condition until love lifts us out of the pit into which we sink.

Our Lord’s word is truth. It is the truth that frees us and restores us.

Why are you alive? Why were you born? To work for a company who could care less about you other than what you add to their bottom line? To be a consumer so you by all the things that advertisers have created a desire for? Are you here just to become a client, a patient, a statistic, or number?

You have been created for God. Jesus seeks to bring us to this understanding.

Jesus states to the disciples, “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. (Jn. 17:11 NIV)

Did you catch that? That “they may be one as we are one. “We are meant to be one with God. We are not just animals. We are not just employees, consumers, or numbers but the beloved of God.

Jesus lifts  us up so we can see our situation, our real need, our true purpose. He lifts us up and encourages us.

A lot of people live with deep guilt because of what happens in their lives. Guilt is not from God. Conviction that leads to contrition yes, but not guilt, For every verse of Scripture that reminds of our sin there are verses of Scripture that remind us of our destiny. For every recollect of our imperfection there are promise we will be made whole. For every defeat an offer of victory, for every thou shall not there is a but you will. Some think the Christian faith is about restriction, but it is about release.

It is a faith in and for love 1 Cor. 13:4-8 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Jesus lets us know that he will accept us because he loves us. Even when we make a mess of it we can turn to him. But please understand this, Jesus will not force himself on us.  The decision to trust is always our choice.

Jesus told a parable about a prodigal son. The son’s actions caused him shame and suffering. But the we are told he came to his senses.

God will let us walk down the path we are going till we come to our senses.

There is a Christmas song about the coming of Santa Clause.

It goes, ”You better not pout, you better not cry, listen here I’m telling you why, Santa Clause is coming to town”. The song is to remind children they had better’ be good.

I have written a different line.

You had better not doubt, you had better comply, listen here I’m telling you why, Jesus Christ is coming-to town. He knows that we’ve been sinful, he knows how much we ache, he know how hard it is to be good so he gives us the gift of grace.

Jesus came to this world the first time to show people how to love and be loved by God through example and explanation When He comes again it will be hold this world accountable to how we have loved. The question is will we be ready? Who can endure when he comes? Those who have accepted his discipline, those who have trusted his love, they will endure.

What Have You Done for God Lately?

“Perhaps we do not know what love is, nor does this greatly surprise me. Love does not consist in great sweetness of devotion, but in a fervent determination to strive to please God in all things, in avoiding, as far as possible, all that would offend Him, and in praying for the increase of the glory and honor of His Son and for the growth of the Catholic Church.” 
— St. Teresa of Avila, p. 54-5, Interior Castle

(Disclaimer-I believe in the catholic (universal) church, not catholic just in the Roman Catholic Church)

What have you done for God? This may seem like a strange question but I believe it is a question we should be asking ourselves every single day. 

God gives us the commandment to love our God and our neighbors. When we do acts of kindness and compassion to others and our motivation is to love as God loves, then we are doing something for God. When we seek, out of love for God, to do what God requires (He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly1 with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV) we are doing something for God.  When we study the Bible for the purpose of knowing God in a deeper way, we are doing something for God. When we give generously (not legalistically) above what is asked of us we are doing something for God. When we seek to nurture and support faith in others then we are doing something for God.

So, again I ask myself, “What have you done for God lately?”