I believe that prophesies are frameworks–outlines that could reach their fullness in a number of different ways. The Creator makes different choices than we would, even with our own ideas. As time passes, the unwelcome words of prophets ferment into wishful thinking. The bias is in the hearer: we are only human.
Malachi’s Messiah is a force apart, purifying Israel. The Golden Gate, next to Al-Aqsa mosque, is bricked-over as if to symbolically preclude Malachi’s messiah. But Malachi was not the only prophet talking about the need for a Messiah. Yet by the time Jesus came, and even in the centuries since, he was rejected by so many. The Messiah had turned from a force for accountability to a virtual super-hero: Captain Israel. I’m not joking… there is a Captain Israel comic book. It’s just as silly as it sounds, by the way.
Jesus has no laser vision but his gaze will burn our faults. Christ’s arms had no super-human strength to break the cross that he hung upon, but his divine heart kept them pinned there as a testimony to his commitment. Indeed, Malachi’s description is directly in-step with the Jesus we know: a refining fire for all those whose pride has bound them. He is a force of justice for widows, the cheated, and the foreigner.
However, now more than ever, we are enamored with instant solutions. Perhaps this lust for ease undergirds the myths of redemptive violence that permeate our country–the idea that we could explode and shoot our way to a solution. We might also delude ourselves that grace works automatically, without our need to actively accept and live through grace each day. We should be older and wiser by now: nothing of quality was ever achieved quickly.
The refinement Jesus brings to us is challenging, sometimes even ugly, and requires our commitment. Jesus offered to share a yoke with us, not pull us in a wagon. We have to daily undertake the work of realizing what it means to have a Messiah like Jesus and how we are going to be the body of Christ that day. The fruits of our sweaty labor are beautiful, though, beyond what can be portrayed in books.
In the mean time, Christmas is a good time to remember that everyone begins as a child. Christ reminds us again and again throughout the Gospel how important it is to understand ourselves as children of this Kingdom.
A reflection by John Daniel Gore