This has been a difficult year. Pandemic, pandemonium. And the presidential election. What’s next? I can’t tell you exactly, but don’t worry, there’s always something else coming around the corner. Are you ready? Are you making the right kind of preparations? The fact is you can’t control the outcome of everything or get everyone to behave in an appropriate way. It’s been hard not being with family and friends in the ways we were before. With the number of COVID-19 cases rising in places, folks aren’t sure about Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings. I was recently asked, “Pastor, will we still celebrate Christmas?” “Yes,” I responded. “Christmas is coming no matter what. We’ll find a way to celebrate the gift of Christ. Joy, hope, love and peace are ours, and in these days, all the more important.”
And it’s starting to look a lot like Christmas. I observed town workers in the area putting up the usual lights and signs for a Merry Christmas. Of course, stores have things ready for your shopping-towers of “Black Friday” specials ahead of their usual time for such a thing. When some are distressed and depressed about life, they go shopping, only to be depressed when they get the credit card bills. I wish, no I pray, that people would really get it. Christmas is not about the stuff we go purchase in the marketplace. It’s about Jesus. Folks will brave the marketplace to shop, shop and shop, or spend lots of time and money to do online shopping. But praying, reading and studying the Bible and gathering to worship with fellow believers, not so much. Unfortunately, a lot of folks in our day don’t get it with regard to embracing and living the faith. Sad. For too many, their understanding of Christmas lacks substance. One guy remarked, “I don’t know what all the Christmas fuss it about, it’s just another day.” In truth, God’s at work saving, healing, loving, mending and restoring.
In Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25, there is the parable about the 10 maidens, five foolish and five wise. It’s all about being prepared and ready for what’s coming. In the gospel, all were supposed to be ready at the coming of the bridegroom. All had their lamps, but only five carried containers of oil, and the other five had none. Five were ready and five were not. Then comes the call, “Look here is the bridegroom.” Those who weren’t ready asked the other five to give them some of their oil. But “No, go into town, to the marketplaces and get some.” The problem is, it was likely too late. There was no 24/7 Wal-Mart open. And the foolish missed out on the party. We too wait for the Christ who is the bridegroom of the Church. It’s about being busy doing good, being prepared, being obedient, ready and focused on what’s really important.
Pray for one another, and for our country in these uncertain times. People are weary of caustic rhetoric and worried about the future, so be kind and thoughtful. Some have lost their jobs and are struggling, so contribute to organizations like the St. Nicholas Ministry, local food pantries, and other similar organizations that show compassionate care. Open and read your Bible and discover God’s comforting Word to you. Gather in worship with fellow believers, and encourage one another. Partake of the Sacrament, receiving bread and wine, the body and blood of Jesus. It is food for your journey of faith. This is the good preparation, building that rock-solid foundation of faith to deal with whatever comes our way.