When I was a little girl, my brother and I would make a deal on Christmas Eve that we would both stay up all night and watch for Santa Claus. I had my walkie-talkie and he had his… code word: Claus. The plan was set and we hurried to bed, but there were two key points I didn’t factor into our mission. First, my brother couldn’t stay awake past 10 p.m. to save his life and second, I was terrified of the dark. When I say terrified, I mean paralyzed with fear, eyes like saucers, blanket pulled over my head to cover my shaking body terrified.
Needless to say, our plan didn’t go… well, as planned. Every creak, shudder or breeze that moved through our tiny trailer had me reaching for my walkie. But, of course, each time I called out the code word… static. My partner has crashed into a deep, blissful sleep, my parents and sister had been out for hours, and I was left wide awake and alone in the dark, waiting for the arrival of our highly anticipated presents.
I was scared to death, frustrated at how slowly the night was passing. All I could think to myself was, “just a few more hours and the Sun will be up and it will be Christmas… I will be okay, I can make it.” Along with every other emotion racing through my eight year old little body was the one that kept me from losing it as I was alone in my bed: HOPE.
I had hope that the Sun would come up, the darkness would end and what I had been waiting for would have arrived. I had hope that what the morning had in store for me would be worth the wait of that seemingly endless night.
Malachi was a prophet sent by God to Israel about 440 years before the birth of Jesus Christ and his words would be the last God would speak to the Israelites for the next four centuries. After years and years of oppression, captivity, and war the Israelites had become a fraction of the people they had once been. They continually succumbed to the pressure of idolatry and failed the mission of obedience to which God had called them. Their temple had been destroyed and rebuilt, their lands taken over by Rome, and they hadn’t hear a word from Yahweh for 400 years. These people were clinging to hope with everything in them.
The words of Malachi would remind them what they were waiting for, “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping like calves let out to pasture.” (Malachi 4:2) Darkness was coming to an end for the Israelites; their hope of Salvation was coming like the Sun after a long night.
Almost 500 years after Malachi spoke those words from the Lord, everything God had promised and all the Israelites had been hoping for was beginning to happen, and the first step was the arrival of John the Baptist. As prophecy was fulfilled in his son, John’s father Zechariah recognized what was happening and remembered the words of Malachi, saying
“And you, my child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of Salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising Sun will come to us from Heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet in the path of peace.” (Luke [1:76]-79, emphasis mine)
John the Baptist was the first sign to the Jews that their hope was coming, that the Sun was about to rise. “
John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:8-9)
Soon, their night would be over and they would find their gift waiting in the light of rising of the Sun. This gift would bring healing, freedom and joy to the Jews.
Maybe you are in a time of darkness right now. Maybe you are paralyzed with fear or hiding because you don’t know what is going to come at you next. Maybe, like the Jews, you have been waiting for God to fulfill a promise He made a long time ago and you are losing hope or maybe you need restoration and healing from a life of struggle and battles. Or maybe you just need to remember how the joy of freedom feels. Wake up my friends; get out of bed… the Sun has risen with healing in his wings. The one true gift is waiting for you this Christmas. Your hope has come.