Advent Devotional: Make It a Great Day

The principal of the elementary school where my kids attended used to finish the morning announcements the same way every day.  Bent over some mammoth-sized copier or carefully cutting around the edges of giant, overly enthusiastic (for the morning, in my opinion) animals, on volunteer days I would smile in anticipation of her closing comment.  Make it a great day, she would say, implying a whole paragraph about how our own choices can influence such an outcome.

Malachi’s prophecy as recorded in Malachi 4 carries exactly the same implication, but with much more severe terms.  When Malachi writes about “that great and dreadful day of the LORD (5),” the word he chooses for “great” means everything from marvelous to intense to significant.  It will be a great day, at least in terms of magnitude, but for those who revere–literally, fear–the Name of the LORD, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.  And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves (2).” Contrast this with Malachi’s opening warning to evildoers. That same sun will burn everything and everyone that’s evil to stubble (1).

Everytime I read these verses, I feel both exuberant anticipation and deep dread.  The prophecy still lands effectively, even today. I think of my children and their constant struggles with bodies that don’t work as they should, of their trouble with communication (two of my children have Autism), their need for insulin to survive (two have juvenile diabetes), their frustration and pain over side-effects caused by medicines they need to be functional (one has epilepsy and anxiety).  At this point in their young lives, my children love Jesus. They rely on Him, worship Him, pray to Him, and claim Him as their Hope. I imagine that Day coming and that Sun falling on their faces, and all of their challenges melting right away. I cry tears of joy over the promise that one day they will find complete healing. I imagine them happy dancing over finally being fully well.

But I also think of a dear friend of mine who, at just twenty-one, lives in pain every day.  She has most recently come to a point when it seems unlikely that she’ll ever be able to live her life without needing a wheelchair.  I love my friend. She has a heart for helping difficult, challenged kids find success. Every week, my friend pushes herself past pain and limitation and exhausts herself helping other people.  But she doesn’t know very much at all about Jesus, which is of course the most important reason God made us friends. While I could hardly ever describe my friend as evil, Jesus Himself proclaimed that “no one is good except God alone (Mark 10:18)”, and we know that “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23)”.  Sometimes we lose our awe over the fact that the Sun of righteousness could fall with healing on any of us, when the truth is that without Jesus, none of us would escape those flames.  When I hear again Malachi’s prophecy about that Day, I know that God loves my friend more than I do, and that as much as I want her to experience His complete healing, God wants that for her even more.  God gave Malachi this prophecy because He desperately wants to save as many as possible. As Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).”  It hurts my heart to think of that great Day arriving as a dreadful day for my friend or others like her, and I think that’s exactly the response God looks for in me.

Our celebration of Advent must evoke more in us than fuzzy feelings or even joy over what we have now in Christ.  Part of looking toward the comings of Christ includes remembering the reasons He came and thus, the mission we have as God’s redeemed children.  Advent should awaken in us an urgency to give the greatest gift of all–Jesus, and by Him the gifts of God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness and healing–to those still lost to the pain and destruction of sin.  How can any celebration of the season not move us to share the gospel and help our hurting friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers make it a great day?

Today, we can:

  • Intentionally tell someone in need of Jesus why He is the greatest gift we’ve ever known.
  • Make a list of people who are in our lives specifically because they need Jesus and make a commitment to pray for them by name each day.
  • Look ahead to the new year and carve out time that is for spending time with and loving people who need to hear the good news we have to share.

Live Jesus.  Give Jesus.

You are loved!