December 15, 2022 (The fifth day of the third week of Advent 2022)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“John replied, ‘A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, I am not the Christ, but am sent ahead of Him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom stands and listens for him, and is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must increase; I must decrease.’” (John 3.27-30)
The God who dwells within us makes us His people!
The God who dwells within us reveals Himself in Word and Action!
The God who dwells within us will not forsake His Word of Promise!
The bridegroom is, of course, Jesus the Christ. He is the bridegroom for each of us as members of the Church. The Church is representative of the whole body of Christ save for the head. Jesus Christ is the head of the body. He alone can provide the wisdom, knowledge, right thinking as well as the conscious and spiritual decision-making necessary to live in this world and remain not a part of it. While the imagery may appear to get blurry at this point, let us consider that while the Church is indeed the Bride of the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world (not the physical earth but the community of people who exist on it), there are many parts of the bridal party. We each have a part in it and thus are considered to be one of it- the whole Bride of Christ. A part of that “bridal” wedding party are the groomsmen. In a fashion, we can think of them as prophets and watchmen. They stand on the wall to see a far distance. They stand at the city gate to provide surety of identity of all those who come near. The watchmen thus are the eyes, the ears, the physical senses providing validation of preparation in readiness for the bridegroom Himself.
The season of Advent is that time of “waiting” for the bridegroom to appear. His appearance is not a matter of invitation with a set time. The place to which he draws near is not a question. He is coming to receive His bride and take her to the place He has been preparing for her. Keep hold on the “whole” picture of the bride. It includes every member of the bridal party! When the groom returns, the joy of the watchmen is translated by the announcing word of His arrival to every person. The shepherds experienced it when the angels came “in the middle of the night watch” to share the good news of a great joy! How the world was not prepared for the first coming of the bridegroom. There were no groomsmen and no wedding party. While Mary was betrothed to Joseph, they were not yet truly married in that there was no consummation of the vows of protection, provision and proposal. It was not until John the Baptizer came on the scene thirty years later that the “betrothal” of Christ and His Bride, the Church, was fully presented.
Jesus, on the night when Judas of Kerioth would surrender Him into the hands of His accusers, promised the remaining eleven disciples and those who were waiting table there in the “Upper Room” that He was going away to prepare a place for them. That promise was cemented in the faith and faithfulness they would share together with a meal, a prayer, a time of worship and a time of testing. A part of that promise was “I will return when the work is completed and take you with me to be where I AM going. And you will know where I AM going because I AM the way, the truth and the life and there is no other way to gain entry into My Father’s House than to come with Me.” You see, it was the Middle Eastern tradition that the groom would build an addition to His Father’s house for the new family to exist with surety, confidence, provision and support. His house was their house and their house would be His house. Only by being the bride (and thus the bridal wedding party) could one enter the house to live forever in perfect harmony and union as the “two became one.”
Until that time, the bride must prepare “herself” and keep “herself” in ready for the Groom’s return. Our Advent, as a season of waiting and of prophetic declaration that the Church is the true Bride of Christ, is the sending of the message as an invitation for all to come in and be a part of the greatest joy that can ever be known. This is a vivid picture of accountability to each of us, mighty ones of God, as to our thinking, behavior and fulfillment of our promise to serve the Lord our God with our whole self. Christmas represents when the Groom first came to make us His betrothed. Christmas is also when the Church accepts her place as by His side when He is near and when He is “away.” He is always with her in spirit and in truth. Nothing can separate them and truly keep them apart. This is, I fear faithfully, what our Christmas celebration should be all about. It is about adorning ourselves with readiness for the Groom to return as He promised. It is about keeping ourselves faithful to our “first love” which is of God who so loved us that He consented to the proposal of the groom, His Son, to make us, the Church, His Bride. In all we say and do, we are proclaiming His glory and our honor to be made “one with Him.” It is the true prophetic voice of joy which fills the air in this season speaking the truth in love with all our words and with all our actions. The question is most certainly this: Is that what we are doing?
Father, continue to open our heart, mind and spirit to the truth of who and whose we are. Help us to embrace this truth with the anointing of Your Holy Spirit daily as we wait for our joy to be truly complete in Jesus’ name. AMEN.