Saturday, November 29, 2008

Devotion from Proverbs 31, Advent All Year, Marybeth Whalen

I receive a devotion each day from Proverbs 31 ministries, and to be honest I don't even read them every day, but thankfully I read this one, and it was a perfect way for me to begin the Christmas holidays. I want to make the holidays, holy days, so this was perfect. I've never even given much thought to the word "advent", so I even learned something this morning. Marybeth Whalen has a website. It is listed under my blog lists if you'd like to visit her site.
By the way, turn your speakers on and enjoy my Christmas music while you read my blog. What a wonderful season!

The word “advent” means “to come.” So the advent season we are entering is a time of preparing for Christ to come. Figuratively, we are to see ourselves in the place of those who sought the newborn Savior: the shepherds, the wise men, Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna. This season becomes a time to turn our hearts towards the practice of seeking Him. And indeed, during this festive time on the calendar, many hearts are turned, and many intentions renewed. This is part of the excitement of Christmas!

In the gospels, Jesus refers to the Church as His bride. He speaks of a day when He will come for the Church and there will be a wedding ceremony like no one has ever seen! In the midst of a struggling economy, failing marriages, and brokenness everywhere I look, that is a vision that motivates me beyond my circumstances. And yet, is it a vision that is kept within the confines of Christmas? Or can we look for Jesus to come all year?

When Jesus used the marriage analogy to describe His relationship with His people, He knew that His listeners would attach certain cultural perceptions about marriage to this word picture. In Biblical times, it was common for an engaged couple to spend a year apart. The bride would spend time with her mother and other women she respected, learning to run a household and getting prepared, becoming a student of the desires and expectations of her groom. She took this time very seriously as she readied her heart and life for what was to come. The groom also spent time preparing. He would spend his time making a home for them to live in, the place he would bring his bride to with pride. Both parties had a pivotal role to play.

What a beautiful picture this is for the Church and her Bridegroom! Christ has, as promised, gone to prepare a place for us. While we are apart, we can trust that He is working to build something beautiful. But we have an equally important role to play. While we are apart, we must learn what it takes to be His bride. We must study Him, learning how to keep His house in a way that pleases Him. This is not merely a suggestion, but an expectation. We can’t lose that expectation in the shuffle of changing times and cultures! We know that He keeps His promises, so we can trust that He is building our house for us. Don’t we want to be a bride who is prepared?

Though traditionally the season of advent is hemmed in between the dates of Thanksgiving and New Year’s, let’s not leave it there. Let’s make this season merely the beginning of our preparation for what is to come. We can commit this time that we are apart from our Bridegroom to prepare for Him, to anticipate His return, and to focus not only on when He came, but when He is coming again.

Dear Lord, thank You for coming and thank You for the promise that You will return. Lord, I want to prepare for You as Your bride, learning about You and drawing close to You. Thank You for preparing a place for me and finding me worthy to be Your bride. I want to make my whole life a season of advent—a time of anxiously anticipating what is to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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