six people leaping at sunrise joy
Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

And you shall tread down the wicked…

Malachi 4:2-3a (ESV)

Have you ever kicked up your heels? I mean like a cheerleader or a happy little goat or a leaping calf?

You’ve not?

A Frisky Sort of Joy

Let’s change that. For God’s sake this Advent, let’s change that.

Surprise your friends like I surprised mine. We were walking to the car after an exquisite dinner out. I never was a cheerleader, except for that one month in seventh grade, with a used maroon skirt for the Richmond Rams.

I wasn’t sure I could.

But I did.

I jumped clear off the sidewalk and clapped my heels together. I did and my friends laughed.

If you fear the Lord, if you know him as Lord, you really ought to be frisky now and again and frolic like a calf released to a grassy green field from a dark cramped stall on a fresh spring day. Or if you’re not so agrarian, with the heel-clapping freedom you feel as you race to your car after work on the Friday night before Christmas break.

That is the sort of joy the saints who glory in Christ have. And in the span of a verse and a third, we find three reasons for this frisky sort of joy.

3 Reasons to Rejoice

Do you have a leaping sort of joy in you?

If you fear God, you are his treasured possession (Malachi 3:16-17). That means you have good reasons to rejoice like a busting-out-of-the-stall calf.

Here are three:

  1. The sun of righteousness will rise. Christ is our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6, 1 Corinthians 1:30) and Christ is our light (John 8:12). He will do right (Genesis 18:25) and his light we see light.
  2. It will bring healing in its rays. Christ brings health and peace (Psalm 84:11, Luke 1:78-79). Christ healed on earth and when we see him face to face we will be completely healed (Revelation 21:4).
  3. In Christ, we tread down the wicked. In Christ we are superconquerors (Rev. 19:14, Romans 8:37). We are set free from sin and slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18, 22). With him we triumph not only over our own wickedness, but even over the unrepentant wicked (Malachi 4).

There you have it: three reasons for a leaping, frolicking sort of joy.

Advent is a Place of Grace

Remember that joy is not a given. Even, and maybe especially, at Christmas we must work for it. One way we do that is by rehearsing these truths.

I think that’s what Advent is for. It’s a place of grace. A time to remind ourselves what’s ahead.

Because while the light has dawned on those living in the valley of the shadow of death (Matthew 4:16), there is still this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12).

But the sun of righteousness will rise.

So will you go clap those heels? From a chair if you must, but frolic.

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

—Charles Wesley, 1739

Was Malachi anticipating Christmas? Wesley wove his words into one of our favorite carols, but was the prophet thinking of a Messiah who would be born of a woman and bear our sins in his body on the tree?

The short answer is yes and no. Read John Piper’s full explanation here.

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