Countdown to Christmas: Refine

 By Rev. Dr. Tanya Marie Eustace

Discipleship MinistriesNashville, TN

First, read Malachi 3:2-3

Refine: to improve (something) by making small changes, in particular to make more accurate.

This is a hard word for me to consider during the Christmas season. Christmas often brings a time of joy and laughter — cheerful music, beautiful decorations, parties, fun, and fellowship. During this time the temperature drops and I feel my heart soar as I experience all the joy God promises in this tiny infant.

The focus of this season is often outward as we take in all that this season brings. We set the table, wrap gifts, and attend parties. We sing Christmas carols and feel the excitement as we proclaim the good news: “Joy to the world the Lord is come!”

We embrace the joy of Christmas forgetting the journey of the Holy family, the shepherds, and the wise men.  We forget the many years the Israelites lived in exile crying out as they waited for Emmanuel, God with us.

When we quickly jump to celebrating all that God has given, we miss a holy opportunity to turn inwards, to focus on God, and to consider — how is God calling us to change as we get ready to greet the new born King?

Today, the words in Malachi invite us to consider —How am I preparing my heart for the mystery of Christmas?

This prophet reminds us that we, the descendants of Levi, are in need of purification as we grow into the people God created us to be.

Advent is a holy time where we take a bath and get clean as we prepare our hearts and minds to greet Jesus once again. It is a time when ask — what needs to be cleaned, changed, refined?

These are not easy questions. Sometimes it is easier to focus on the joy of the season than to do the hard work of waiting, reflecting, and preparing.

Often the process of refinement can be painful.

It is indeed Holy work.

This Advent take time to sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” Talk about what it means to wait, to get ready, and to be refined. Find time to pray asking God to refine your heart and mind as you get ready for the mystery of Christmas. Then, on Christmas morning sing with joy, feel the promise and hope the Christ child brings as you celebrate all that God has, is, and will do in and through you and all of creation.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

This advent, whenever you hear/see/feel water, take time to wonder:

1) How am I preparing my heart for the mystery of advent?

2) What small changes is God asking me to make this season?

3) How is God refining my heart as I seek to follow Christ in making a difference in the world around me?