Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
(Malachi 3:1-4.23-24; Luke 1:57-66)
In Luke’s gospel John the Baptist clearly takes the place of Elijah, the prophet of fire. John warns the people that unless they reform, they will be burned like trees in a forest fire. In this way John goes before the Lord, as his father Zechariah proclaims in his song of jubilation at his naming, “to prepare his ways.”
Jesus will not take up John’s message of the coming wrath of God. Rather, his preaching will center on God as the human’s savior. Although Jesus will mention God’s power to cast sinners into hell, he will stress God’s love. He will say that the Father has counted the number of hairs on each person’s head to insure her total salvation.
Since love is also portrayed with fire, we might contrast John’s message with Jesus’ using that image. John, following Elijah, will use the threat of a blazing fire to move the people out of lethargy or licentiousness. In contrast Jesus, the divine physician, uses love like a laser to heal us and make us whole.