Rev. Gaven Mize
Awake you Christians from your sleep and marvel at your savior who has come to you through water and the word. You who have been grafted into the great vine have not been separated by your slumber, but have been united for all time in your baptism. The branch for your forehead confesses the faith that is so deeply ingrained into your soul. And while this is marvelous and magnificent, those on your right and left stand now awake alongside of you, for the great ushering has begun. The great Advent awaits. The Lord is coming to your aid. And this means that even in death, you live.
One of the most difficult things for a pastor is being by the bedside of a dying member and trying to speak the words of comfort for them. We trust in the words of the Lord and we read to them great passages from scripture. But, most times when words seem to fail, I place a crucifix in their hands and whisper in their ears, “Fear not, soon this night will be over, our Lord is coming for you.” Then the day comes that the pastor and the family lay them in their “final resting place.” Many tears are shed, many memories are shared, and the Gospel is proclaimed. And, of course, the resurrection of Christ and the blessing of Easter is placed before the eyes of the faithful.
Death comes to us all. Dortmund, Germany learned this hard lesson in the winter of 1597. The plague had hit with such a horrible force that it left the small town nearly desolate. At one point, the pastors were digging in the frozen ground to bury thirty saints per day. There didn’t seem to be enough crosses to go around for those who rested from their labors. The amount of people who had fallen asleep in their Lord was simply staggering. So, what is a pastor to do in a situation like this? The simple answer is to do what you did before when saints die: point them to the resurrection of the dead.
This is exactly what Rev. Philip Nicolai did as he was burying all those saints. He took his pen and ink and pressed them to paper and out came a glorious confession of faith! “Wake, awake, for night is flying, The watchmen on the heights are crying; ‘Awake, Jerusalem, arise!’ Midnight hears the welcome voices, And at the thrilling cry rejoices: Come forth, ye virgins, night is past! The Bridegroom comes, awake, Your lamps with gladness take; Hallelujah! And for His marriage-feast prepare, For ye must go to meet Him there.”
The watchmen are at the gate. Their oil is never ending. Their wicks are constantly trimmed. Their anticipation constantly growing for the coming bridegroom. And upon the return of the Christ, all whom the plague did destroy will arise from their cold tombs and will once again call upon the name of the Lord and life will be theirs. That’s the thing about Jesus: Everywhere He goes light and life follow.
As we approach Advent and the anticipation of the Christmas Season, we are never too far away from the final advent-the return of Christ for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. When we celebrate the coming of Christ we do so in the guarantee that our God, the One who was humiliated and became man, would not and will not abandon us in our time of greatest need. When our hour of dying comes and the pastor places a crucifix in our hands, may we have on our lips, “Zion hears the watchmen singing, And all her heart with joy is springing, She wakes, she rises from her gloom; For her Lord comes down all-glorious, The strong in grace, in truth victorious…”
The fact of the matter is that there is always enough cross to go around. There is always enough life to be given, for Christ is the One who gives. So, live. In your baptism rejoice, and live. As your fingers close around the cross, live. Because Christ has come for you. Christ remains the One coming for you. And soon, the ones who have been planted and the ones who walk the earth in faith, will call out, “Ah come, Thou blessed Lord, O Jesus, Son of God, Hallelujah! We follow till the halls we see, Where Thou hast bid us sup with Thee!”
But, for now, let us keep watch as the watchmen of the Lord. Come Lord Jesus, quickly come.