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Scrub Brushes and Town Criers by Angie Fuller

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week Three: the Benedictus

Wednesday, December 20

Mark 9:9-13


“Elijah does come first, and restores all things.” (Mark 9:12)

Like many small towns, my hometown of Pella, Iowa, hosts an annual festival. Tulip Time honors Pella’s Dutch heritage with three days of dough-filled goodies, wooden shoes, and of course tulips. Before each of the six parades, the town crier and the Tulip Queen and Royal Court appear in the city square. In previous centuries, public communication came through a town crier, who walked the streets announcing news and events. If a celebration or visiting dignitary was announced, Dutch villagers scrubbed their doorsteps and cobblestone streets in preparation.

During Tulip Time, Pella’s pseudo town crier announces that royalty is coming and joins city officials to inspect the street which, not surprisingly, is always deemed dirty. Citizens in Dutch costumes appear in sort of an old-fashioned flash mob to pour water from metal pails and scrub with coarsely-bristled brooms. I can still hear the loud scratching of a couple hundred of those brooms, as I pushed my share of them over the years – creating wet paths that blended with others until the street was restored to cleanliness.

In Mark 9, the disciples are understandably confused after seeing Moses and Elijah with Jesus, especially when Jesus calls John the Baptist an “Elijah” of their era. Before John’s birth, his father acknowledged him as a prophet who would prepare the way for Jesus. Both the Old Testament Elijah and John the Baptist bluntly preached repentance – to turn back to God by living an obedient life and to be ready for the Messiah. Elijah and John were essentially town criers proclaiming, “Royalty is coming! Clean up your act and get ready!”

I pray, “Create in me a clean heart” (Psalm 51:10). But a truly clean heart requires more than a simple, prayerful rinse. I need the discomfort of a bristled brush to scrub the imbedded dirt of my impatience, insincerity, and indifference. Emmanuel cannot share the same space in my heart with filth like that.

We still await Christ’s coming. What needs scrubbing to restore your heart?

Angie Fuller

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