Readings for November 12, 2017
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
“Luck favors the prepared.” In The Incredibles, superhero costume designer and wise sage, Edna Mode, sums up the lessons for today’s readings. I could certainly use a bit of luck with the upcoming holiday season, so my home will be in full preparatory mode.
Christmas lights will be hung up outside and be scheduled to illuminate on Thanksgiving. Lists will be planned and made for gift giving. Christmas cards will be addressed and mailed at “just the right time”. Food will be purchased to share with family and friends. As the holidays grow closer we will clean the house, cook the food, and wrap the packages. We will then discover several gifts that we forgot we bought and wrap some more. Next we will buy more food because it doesn’t feel like we have enough yet. When our middle daughter comes home from college I will blast Christmas music from my speakers and we will decorate and hang ornaments on the tree as a family. Later, we will buy more food because we forgot something, buy one more gift to make things “even” and continue this cycle until the arrival of this special holiday.
Of course, in the remaining six weeks leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus, God expects less focus on preparation for a season of gift giving and entertainment, and more focus on preparing my heart for the coming of my Lord and savior, the fully human manifestation of His love for me.
How do I prepare for the arrival of a manifestation of God’s love? The scripture passages tell me that preparation comes in seeking wisdom, waiting, watching, thirsting for, seeking, and giving glory to God, staying aware, having hope, and staying awake. All the steps necessary to prepare seem like noble pursuits and altogether doable, though demonstrably lacking in activity.
This presents a challenge for me as I do not possess a reputation for patience. Knowing my shortcomings, I tend to busy myself in a time of waiting. And while I may choose to fill some of my time with righteous activities like reading and studying scripture, it can still be a distraction. My incessant activity keeps me from remembering to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:11). In distraction, I am unprepared and counted among the foolish who neglected to bring oil for their lamps. Like me, I assume the virgins in Jesus’ parable were sincere in their desire to meet the bridegroom. However, distracted by the excitement in their anticipation, they did not thoroughly prepare. My impatience and busyness also prevents me from being present to the moment, putting me at risk of missing Jesus’ arrival. In constant motion, my luck, like the lamp oil, will run out.
Waiting is an important part of growing my faith and requires a conscious choice. In the Book of Sirach, the writer extols, “If you choose, you can keep the commandments; loyalty is doing the will of God. To whatever you choose, stretch out your hand” (Sirach 15:13-14). Trusting in God’s love for me, wholly revealed in the sacrifice of His beloved Son in an all-embracing effort to save me, helps me patiently, yet assuredly, “stay awake.”
The wisdom I need for the preparation of Jesus’ arrival is unlike the tasks needed to prepare for the holiday season. There is no YouTube video to help, no detailed list, and no frenzied activity capable of guiding my vigilance. I am preparing for an eternal love, seeking a love that is “a greater good than life” itself, and I’m not supposed to do anything besides be present to that love. And while I do not know the time or the place that I may meet Jesus, I do know how to prepare.
God created me in love, to love. When I let God be God and live His commands, I love as He loves me. He has created me to do exactly that. It’s on me to prepare to return to Him with exultant praise, shouting for joy.