Christmas is coming! ‘Tis the season for us to ponder with wonder the coming of Christ as God Incarnate in history and to consider with hope the promise of Christ’s return. I would like to suggest that taking a bit of time to consider the return of Christ will enable us to make our celebration of the Incarnation more powerful and more deeply joyful.
The church is sometimes described as the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7), and believers are now waiting for the Bridegroom. This metaphor is worth careful consideration. In today’s world, weddings are a big deal, requiring months if not years of preparation and care. But that was similarly true in Bible times and in the centuries in between. The truth is that marriage is a big deal. God’s intent for marriage is lifetime intimacy that mirrors the unity and intimacy enjoyed within the Trinity. And while our elaborate preparations reflect that, it is important to remember that it is the marriage relationship—not the ceremony—that is of ultimate importance. In the counseling field, it is regularly bemoaned that young couples spend much more time preparing for their wedding than they do preparing for a lifetime of living together.
Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2“Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3“For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5“Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6“But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7“Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8“The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9“But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10“And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11“Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12“But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13“Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.
This parable of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 25, reminds us that waiting for the bridegroom requires an active and engaged waiting. And in the end, it is about a genuine relationship with Christ, one characterized by our knowing Him and His knowing us. I would suggest that keeping our lamps lit is a metaphor for a continued pursuit of Christ, fueled by a desire to build that relationship. Preparing for Christ is far more than looking good. It is far more about building and deepening our relationship with Christ. And while developing that relationship is serious business and more challenging than “dressing up” in Christian trappings, it also means that the messiness of our lives of faith is not the measure of who we are in Christ and need not distract us from pursuing Him.
The celebration of Christmas is marked by special events, special decorations, gifts. These symbols are reminders of deeper truths. As we plan our events, dig out our decorations, and purchase our gifts, may we do so with our eyes, ears, and hearts fixed on our Lord so that this holiday may enable and empower us to keep our lamps lit.