"Wake, awake, for night is flying," The watchmen on the heights are crying; "Awake, Jerusalem, arise!" Midnight hears the welcome voices, And at the thrilling cry rejoices: "Oh, where are ye, ye virgins wise? The Bridegroom comes, awake! Your lamps with gladness take! Alleluia! With bridal care yourselves prepare, To meet the Bridegroom, who is near."
Advent will soon be here, a season of repentance and anticipation that ends with Christmas and the celebration of Jesus' first Advent: His birth in Bethlehem. Yet Advent is never really over for us, because even after Christmas we will still long for Jesus' second Advent, the day when He returns in glory as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Scripture speaks of Jesus' return in different ways. As the risen Lord to whom the Father has given judgment, Jesus is the Judge who is already "standing at the door" (James 5:9b). Jesus portrays Himself as the King who will gather His followers into the kingdom prepared for them (see Matthew 25:34). He is the returning Master who invites His faithful servants to enter into the joy of their Master (see Matthew 25:21). On trial before the Jewish ruling council, Jesus declared Himself to be the Messiah and Son of God, the Son of Man who, as Daniel prophesied, would come "with the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62b).
Our hymn brings together Old Testament prophecy and Jesus' parable of the wedding feast and the wise and foolish virgins. The prophet Isaiah spoke of the joy of the watchmen who see the return of the Lord (see Isaiah 52:8). In His parable, Jesus describes His joyful return as a marriage feast in which the divine Bridegroom comes at midnight to claim His bride, that is, His people, His church. Ten virgins serving as bridesmaids or companions for the bride are assigned the task of welcoming the Bridegroom. Five of the virgins are foolish. They are unprepared, and the lamps they carry run out of oil. These five foolish and faithless virgins leave the scene to buy more oil. The other five virgins are wise, and they are prepared. With brightly burning faith, they rejoice at the Bridegroom's arrival and enter the joy of the wedding feast.
The hymn cries out its warning for us to be awake and ready in faith for Jesus' Second Coming. Speaking of His return, Jesus asked, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8b) Yes, He will! Our Bridegroom will find us ready and waiting in faith for His return, for with "bridal care" we have been prepared by the Bridegroom Himself. Jesus has cleansed His Bride "by the washing of water with the Word" in Baptism (Ephesians 5:26b) so that He might present His holy bride to Himself in purity and joy.
Christmas will soon be here, and just as soon, that joyful festival will be past. But for us it will still be Advent. Like the watchmen and the wise virgins, we will be watching and waiting—with faith brightly burning—for the arrival of our Bridegroom. Come, Lord Jesus!
THE PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we look forward in joy and faith to Your return. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying," which is found on page 516 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Do you keep extra items of any kind around your home for unexpected visitors?
2. How do you stay prepared for Jesus' next coming?
3. Is Jesus' return an event you think about much? Does it factor into your life and decision-making process?
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