Christmas After Malachi: The Gift of Salvation
Christmas After Malachi: The Gift of Salvation
To truly, deeply rejoice in Christmas, we must see the full weight of God’s glory coming to us in Christ’s birth. The Old Testament is a treasure trove of revelation of the holiness and mightiness of God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. We cannot fully understand the hope, joy, and beautiful mercy of the incarnation until we understand the fullness of God’s kingly, righteous nature as revealed in the Old Testament.
Malachi is one of my favorite books to recognize my need for a Savior, to see the trustworthiness of God’s promises, and to feel the joy of Christ’s incarnation.
Malachi opens with the declaration that God loves His people, but He also has just complaints against their unfaithfulness. The heart of every complaint is as true of each of us today as it was of His people then. God’s people fail to love Him with all their hearts, minds, and souls, and they fail to love their neighbors as themselves. God is not okay with sin. He is a mighty King of Justice. Malachi makes this clear, but he also offers hope. When we more clearly see our need for salvation, we more clearly recognize the gift of salvation.
Malachi 3:6 gives us reason to rejoice, “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Because God never changes, we can trust His love is steadfast and forever. Because salvation belongs to the Lord, and the Lord alone, we have hope. But what is that hope? God has promised to save his people since the beginning. In Genesis 3:15, He promises us that the seed of woman will one day vanquish the serpent.
But where is that seed? It isn’t Cain, who murders his brother. It isn’t Moses, who leads God’s people out of Egypt but cannot give them eternal life. It isn’t Levi or his descendants, who offer sacrifices that point to salvation, but do not save (Hebrews 10:4). Malachi 3:7 echoes this anxious inquiry about God’s promises, “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’”
How can we be reconciled to God when we have rebelled against Him? How can we have hope if He is to come as a conquering King, who purifies with fire and destroys His enemies, when we are acting as His enemies? This is the full weight of our need for redemption. If we invite ourselves and our students to know that weight, to feel it, we are more able to fully celebrate the joy of the coming of Christ into our world.
God does not abandon His wayward people. Before He comes as a conquering King, He comes to us clothed in the weakness of our flesh, as a baby in a manger. Hallelujah! The mighty King who has righteous grievance with His rebellious people comes to know and to serve His beloved. Oh, what glorious hope revealed! God is faithful to His Word and the truth is better than we could imagine! We have a God who is not distant, but who is near in every way and can sympathize with every burden. We have a God who is not forgetful, but who is perfectly patient. In the exact right time, He came in the most tender and vulnerable way in order to conquer sin and death with His own life. The Warrior King lays aside His rights and due justice so that He may personally redeem His beloved children from their path of eternal destruction.
This is the hope and constant joy we have in Christmas. The truth of our sin does not stop God’s promises. When you doubt, when you agonize, when your hope is fading, look to Christmas. See the perfect God of the universe who holds everything in the palm of His hand putting on the vulnerable flesh of a baby in order to buy back His beloved people with His own blood. See God fulfilling every promise He ever made at the perfect appointed time.
See your desperate need for redemption, and know that God is mighty to save. He will right every wrong, He will wipe away every tear, He will redeem every one of His children through the most magnificent, self-sacrificial, intimately personal way imaginable. He is God with us. He is the Lord of Hosts, who justly brings purifying judgement, and He is also the Messiah who comes as an infant into poverty and persecution on our behalf to bear that judgement. He then tells us to call Him Abba, Father.
Malachi truthfully declares, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall” (Mal: 4:1-2).
This righteous, kingly act of judgement and redemption does not begin as it will end — with trumpets blaring victory, fire in the skies, and a voice like rushing waters wielding the two-edged sword of the Word. Instead, it is inaugurated with the singing of angels to shepherds in the field. God’s personal messengers coming to the lowliest people and calling them to rejoice with their King who has come as an infant to be with them and with us, a King who has come to save.
As the Christmas hymn proclaims,
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”