Advent Reading 1: Stay Ready
When you stay ready, you ain’t got to get ready.
RuPaul said it so did Will Smith. The Bible says it too in different iterations since time immemorial. In Genesis 18:15 Moses promises another servant like him is coming--You must listen to him! Or Isaiah writing of worshiping watchmen who sing and celebrate the return of the Lord--He’s returned and he reigns! (Isaiah 52:7-9)
Or Jesus likening his second coming to a returning bridegroom--stay ready so you ain’t got to get ready because if you’re not ready, you’re going to miss everything.
Read the passage in Matthew 25:1-13.
According to D.A. Carson in the New Bible Commentary, this parable of Jesus deals with the theme of readiness, contrasting the ready with the unready.
It’s a torchlight procession at the end of the wedding ceremony, he writes. The groom is escorting his bride home. The “virgins” in some translations or bridesmaids or perhaps even friends of the groom are there to light his path to the feast. They know their role. But something unexpected happens.
They anticipate his return yet don’t know the hour. And he’s taking forever! The ten grow sleepy while waiting and doze off.
With Jesus, a promise made is a promise kept. The bridegroom returns and five servants wake up ready while the other five panic. Their ancient lamps likely require oil-soaked rags. The flames burn hot, fast—so extra oil is a necessity. Five bridesmaids are prepared with backup oil flasks—the others didn’t even think about it.
“It’s the middle of the night! Who shows up at 3AM? He should have been here 12 hours ago. I don’t have enough oil to last ‘till daylight!” I can imagine one fretful sister saying to her friend. But the thing is, it’s not her role to judge the groom’s itinerary—it’s her job to the hold the lamp.
And her lamp just went dark.
Waiting isn’t just for Disneyland, doctor’s offices and diagnoses. Waiting is for Christians who need their strength renewed. Before we can walk, run or fly like eagles—we must first wait like watchful bridesmaids.
And it’s difficult!
Here’s conciliation. We wait expectantly. We wait with a sense of adventure. We vacuum the floors, attend the meetings and read stories to the kids. We fold the clothes and shake the hands and get a good night’s sleep but all the while, we’ve got an eye on the horizon and a go-bag ready on the closet floor.
Because the Bridegroom will return. And when He does, we’ll be ready.
The Latin word is adventus. The Greek word, parousia. It literally means, presence or arrival and biblically, refers to Christ's second coming.
For several centuries, particularly in the West, Christians have followed the six seasons of the liturgical calendar. It goes like this: Advent, Christmas, Ordinary time (post-Epiphany), Lent, Easter and Ordinary time (post-Pentecost).
If you didn’t grow up observing seasonal religion—you’re in good company because I didn’t either. My parents worshipped with a wide-open Bible. They prayed with, celebrated and served believers and non-believers from all walks of life. Our home faith was a raw, gritty, boots-on-the-ground with eyes-on-Jesus kind-of-thing. I knew the meaning of parousia years ago—not because of a fancy commentary but because my dad SO lives in anticipation of Jesus, it’s his email address! (Every time I hit ‘send’ on an email to my dad, I’m reminded of a theological reality that blows my mind!)
As I got older, I started craving religious tradition. The informality, fluidity and flexibility of faith is important but the ramparts matter too. It’s like a holiday dinner. I can cook or even enjoy a catered meal but there’s something about great-grandma’s macaroni and cheese that materializes from her vintage recipe card—something about pulling up to my parent’s home and feeling good.
Tradition is connection. Linking arms with brothers and sisters who’ve gone before—building on the foundation they laid, moving from elementary teaching to maturity as the writer of Hebrews says (Hebrews 5:11-6:3).
And that brings me to Advent.
It’s the four Sundays before Christmas where traditionally, two are dedicated to looking forward to Christ’s second coming and two recall the first.
Join me in this advent-ure with four short reflections from Matthew 25:1-13—the parable of the ten bridesmaids. I'll post a new entry each Sunday and we'll discover the mysteries this parable reveals.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "