When you hear the word vigilance, what comes to your mind? Is it the military watchman scanning the horizon for any potential danger? Is it the lawyer or political watchdog who scans through every brief for the slightest error or opening? Is it the sailor in the crow’s nest watching for land or an enemy vessel? The dictionary defines vigilance as the action or state
of keeping careful watch for possible danger or some other kind of trouble. It has as its root the idea of watchfulness or being alert. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives this example of its usage: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”
Vigilance often comes up in our discussions these days. News stories remind us not to be complacent about the coronavirus but to remain vigilant in our efforts to stay safe. In our post-election situation, both sides remain vigilant regarding any changes in legal results.
Within the Church, we are moving into the season of Advent. Advent is a season of vigilance. First century believers carefully watched for any sign of the promised Messiah. For the modern Christian, we remain just as watchful for the second coming of Christ. The signs are all around us. It could be any day.
That is the lesson Jesus taught the people of his day. In the parable of the ten virgins, all ten virgins waited in anticipation of the bridegroom’s arrival. But only five were truly vigilant and prepared. (Truth be told, all ten
became drowsy and fell asleep. Cf. Matthew 25:5) But the five wise virgins were prepared and able to trim their
lamps. The five foolish virgins were not prepared and ultimately missed out on the wedding banquet.
A chapter earlier, Jesus compared his second coming to that of a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43). He instructs, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (24:44).
Vigilance. Watchfulness. Be prepared. Be ready. That is the message of Advent. Christ is coming. Be ready. Be watchful. Be vigilant.
We see this in other ways. Kids watch and wonder. They see the lights going up, the tree decorated, the cookies baking, and they know: something special is happening; something special is coming. They wait, and they watch.
We, too, wait and watch. The services we have scheduled will help with that endeavor. Not only do they remind us to wait and watch; they remind us of what we are waiting for, watching for.
More than Santa Claus and presents, we are waiting for the celebration of the birth of the Christ-child. We are waiting and watching for the return of Christ the King, Christ the Judge. We are waiting for heaven and the eternal kingdom of our God. We are waiting for angels and no sin, for joy and laughter without pain or suffering. We are waiting for face-to-face communion with God.
Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. Eternal vigilance is also the cost of discipleship. We are to be prepared. We are to watch and wait. We are to continue to carry out the work of our Lord even as we watch and wait. For one day Christ will come, even has one day he came before. He will come in glory with all the angels. And like the wise and prepared virgins, we will join him in the eternal wedding banquet of our Lord.
Until then, stay vigilant.
~ Pastor Ben Golisch