The Jesus we think of as we prepare for Christmas is always meek and mild. But the Jesus that the prophets predict is a bit more apocalyptic. Malachi asks the question. "Who can survive his coming?" How do we reconcile the Jesus of "O little town of Bethlehem" and the claim that God's incarnation will be like "A refiner's fire"? As we do our advent candles are we counting down the weeks until we get beaten, bleached, into put hot water like laundry? Jesus will come this Christmas like a man doing laundry the old fashion way. Back in bible times, the "fuller" that we hear Jesus referred to, took the new wool cloth from the loom and boiled it with alkali and ash until all the vermin were dead. Then he beat the cloth on the rocks by the river until it was fluffy and full (why he's called a fuller) and then let it bake dry in the hot sun. That's how you take the matted hair of the sheep that grows all year in the dust and dung of the wilderness and make it fit for a king to wear. Jesus comes to prepare us for the kingdom of God. Jesus did not come into our world to give us a cute Christmas story. He came to save sinners, of which I am a good example. And he came to transform the world. Not an easy task when the world we have settled for loves the glitz and glitter of the commercial Christmas. Our world is corrupt, ignores the cries of the poor, and makes compromises with the truth. Jesus isn't going to be meek and mild this Advent.
How is Jesus like a refiner's fire or the fuller's wash-tub? In my own life Jesus appears as the refiner's fire when my problems and misdeeds have become too great for me to ignore. It is like what they say at AA, "I've come to believe that it will take a power greater than myself to restore me to sanity." That's when Malachi's Jesus becomes good news.
This got me thinking of the words of Scott Peck, "It is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually."
Jesus comes as the refiner's fire and the fuller's washing machine to get us to face our problems head on. Advent is a time of sober reflection. We say yes to the coming of our higher power.