The other day I saw a really great t-shirt. It was a military olive-green color and it had the word VETERAN prominently displayed across the front. The man wearing the shirt was ‘older’ (in his ‘50’s’ maybe), looked to be in great shape, and he had a big smile as he walked along with his family. On the back of the shirt read:
“beware of the OLD GUY in an occupation where most guys die young”.
In our culture we tend to idolize youthfulness and dismiss and discount people as they become ‘old’. This t-shirt warns us not to underestimate an aging warrior. The older a soldier gets shows their continued ability to survive. Sharpened skills and fierce determination, resourcefulness and awareness, all working together to keep the soldier alive while others around them are killed. The person that emerges at the end of that kind of career is not some ‘old guy’ to be dismissed… but an awesome and fearsome survivor.
Sharp skill, fierce determination, resourcefulness, and awareness are not just important for making soldiers and warriors into survivors… they are important in many of life’s pursuits, including the journey of faith.
Advent, that season of the church year that anticipates the birth of Christ, draws attention to the foundational disciplines and dispositions needed for faithful people to receive the Savior. The first such discipline and disposition is WATCHING. Throughout the Scriptures, but especially during Advent, faithful people are reminded to WATCH, stay awake, and be aware. The one who remains aware will not miss the coming of Jesus. The one who is watching will not miss their opportunity for salvation.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)
Rather than watching… most of us fly through the Christmas season hanging on by our fingernails. We rush and plan and play and party and work and, through it all, we are distracted from the coming of Jesus. We are distracted from the Good News of great joy. We are distracted from God’s love. Like the five foolish bridesmaids, we rush out into the season without enough oil for our lamps and prone to exhaustion. When it comes time to watch for the miracle of Emmanuel, God with Us, we just might fall asleep (literally or figuratively) and miss it.
This Advent season, while so many others are distracted and exhausted, let’s be a faithfully awesome and fearsome people. As Christians, with our sharp skill, fierce determination, resourcefulness, and awareness, let’s not miss the coming of Jesus this year. Let’s keep our eyes open and our lamps burning. Watch!