On one social event, a bright young fellow was entertaining the guests narrating scenes from movies. I was having a good time listening to him when his wife whispered, “Pastor, don’t believe a word he is saying. He has never seen any of those movies. He only watched the previews.”
He eventually became a good preacher, and as I think about it, this suits all preachers, as they talk about heavens and visions and dreams and hopes, as if they have seen them all. No, they have only experienced them by faith. But how can our pastors tell us about the heaven that they haven’t seen and expect us to believe them? Well, they have seen the preview of it.
Malachi delivered a preview of things to come. Malachi comes at the end of the Old Testament, strategically positioned as a preview for the New Testament. In this lesson, Malachi says, “The Lord is coming.” That takes us straight to the birth of Jesus Christ. The Lord will come and will set us free from the bondage of despair. God will come and mend our broken heart. God will come and wipe all tears from our face. God will come and mend broken relationships. The prophet knows, for he has seen the preview.
Malachi says, God said, “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me” (3:1a). Even God relies on someone else to deliver His message. We do not know whether Malachi was his real name or his nickname. God says, “Malachi is your name, for you are my messenger.”
The prophet says, But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? The prophet expects the cleansing fire to come first. There will be challenges and trials and pains and disappointments, but these challenges and trials and disappointments will somehow make us better persons. In God’s grace, these moments of pain refine us like the things that happen to gold and silver in refinement. The fire will get no credit. Instead, they will die out, but God’s people in suffering will emerge like gold and silver.
Every Advent, we are watching a preview of Christmas. We may have our knees bent under the crushing load of life, but the preview says relief is on its way. Redemption is on its way. Freedom is on its way. It is the same with God’s message. The prophet gives us a preview, and the real thing will be much better than the preview. It is the same with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We love these previews, but we will be blown away when we get to the main event, the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.
© Reverend Jin Han 2012