Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Matthew 25:1, 2
Yes, Christmas IS coming. A number of years ago I discovered that Christmas ALWAYS comes on December 25. Not the 20th or the 27th and always in December. In fact, as early as 273 A.D. the 25th was noted for the celebration of Christ’s birthday in conjunction with the “birth of the unconquered sun” (Christian History, August 2008).
I wonder why it took me so long to record this recurring celebration of Christ’s birth and all the joyous events surrounding it? Once I was mindful of this fact, I began preparing in the fall by making lists and purchasing gifts for loved ones. I began sketching out our family Christmas pageant and the ensuing dinner menu. I was able to choose a convenient date for my annual parties. Essentially, with all the preparations made beforehand, I could worship and enjoy the deeper significance of Christ’s coming.
You may be mildly surprised to learn that there are still thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen and women who will be startled this December to learn that Christmas is only days away. They will stress and fret at all the things that need to be done and the little time left in which to accomplish those tasks. Christmas comes at such a busy time of the year.
The onslaught of Hurricane Harvey is reminding me of our lack of preparation for life’s events. I’ve heard from family and friends that lines at grocery stores have been long and uncomfortable, and some items have been missing from the shelves. It seems that many people haven’t thought about keeping a few non-perishable items in their pantries. But the saddest thing is the expression of anxiety and fear among those who should otherwise recognize God’s peace and presence even in the middle of crisis.
Matthew records the parable about the virgins who were all confronted with the same event. The Bridegroom was coming, and they needed oil. Half were ready; half weren’t. Half had been focused on consistent growth in Christ, of following him daily; half weren’t. Half were allowing his Spirit to fill and transform them; half weren’t. Half were being changed into his image; half weren’t. When the crisis occurred (the Bridegroom’s arrival), half were prepared, half weren’t.
When the various storms come to our lives—and so many arrive unannounced—what have we been laying up in our spiritual stores? Remember another of Jesus’ parables, the one about the two houses—one built on sand and the other on the rock (Matt. 7:24-27)? Jesus said the story reflected someone who heard and did his word and someone who didn’t. Crises are not one-time events, but when they arrive, we sometimes behave like students cramming for the final exam. Trust isn’t an instant commodity that can be purchased at the corner store. It’s an ongoing, daily exercise, a lifestyle relationship with Jesus.
Do you remember what happened with the two men in the two houses? The one that was built on the rock STOOD. And those same life storms come at us regularly. We stand or fall based on what we’ve been doing beforehand. Let’s get ready. The storm is coming.
AND so is Christmas—December 25. Mark your calendars.
Father, thank you for your mercy in all our trials. Continue your faithful ministry in us by your Spirit so that we stand ready to glorify you in every event. And be with all those touched by Harvey—comfort and meet every need. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.