Advent Devotional: Day 19

Advent 2021
Day 19: Thursday, December 16, 2021

Opening Prayer

“Most merciful God, who so loved the world as to give thine only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life: Grant unto us, we humbly pray thee, the precious gift of faith, that we may know that the Son of God is come, and may have power to overcome the world and gain a blessed immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Methodist Book of Worship, 1965)

Scripture Reading

Matthew 25:1-13

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

The Great Tradition

“The wise virgins are those who, embracing the time available to them, were prepared at the first onset of the coming of the Lord. But the foolish were those who were lax and unmindful. They troubled themselves only over present matters and, forgetting what God said, did not direct their efforts toward hope for resurrection.” (Hillary of Poitiers)

Prayer of Confession

“Lord, so often we have tended to take the salvation you came to bring the world for granted and we have forgotten the price you paid that we might have eternal life. Forgive us, Lord, and where there are those who need to hear the Good News, send us; and where there are those who need your ministry, lead us to their side. In the holy name of Christ we pray. Amen.” (James R. Wilson)

Reflection

We sometimes forget that the season of Advent is a time of repentance. That is how the early church thought of it. We often think of repentance as purely a Lenten emphasis. That is because we focus primarily on the first coming (advent) of our Lord. However, if you have been keeping up with these Advent devotions, you have no doubt noticed the number of Scriptural texts that focus on the Lord’s return, (second advent), on being ready for “the Day of the Lord, etc. Today’s text is no exception.

Perhaps you have heard the saying, “Don’t be so heavenly-minded that you are no earthly good.” But those Christians who have made the greatest impact throughout Christian history are those who have been so heavenly-minded that they couldn’t help but be earthly good. That’s because they took the words of Scripture seriously. When our Lord calls us to “watch,” he is not commanding us to sit on the top of a mountain and think spiritual thoughts. While we do want to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and let our hearts and minds dwell in heaven (Colossians 3:1-2), that doesn’t mean we never leave our proverbial (or literal) prayer closets.

Instead, we faithfully watch and wait for the Lord by bearing witness and serving in his name. That is why hospitals, schools, orphanages, and a whole array of evangelistic, mercy, and justice ministries have been around for as long as the church. And yes, we worship, pray, read and study Scripture, enjoy the fellowship of the saints and more. It’s a both/and form of discipleship and not an either/or. Therefore, let us be like the wise virgins who were prepared for the bridegroom’s return. Let us be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock who (Matthew 7), according to Jesus, not only listened to the words of Jesus, but also obeyed them.

Walking Points

  • Are you drawn more to a contemplative life or an action-oriented life? In what settings do you feel closest to the Lord? Why do you think that is?
  • If you are more contemplative, how can you stretch yourself and find ways to bear witness for Christ and serve in his name? If you are more action-oriented, in what ways do you find time alone with God to renew your mind and rest your soul?
  • How are both ways faithful expressions of watching and waiting for the Lord?
  • Pray for God to lead and empower you to pursue this important balance.

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