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 (NRSV)
(For use with the MORNING Daily Prayer)
I was recently reminded by some friends that as we begin Advent, we also enter the darkest time of the year. The days don’t just seem shorter because of our growing “to do” lists, we really are working with less daylight! This is my favorite time of year though, despite the lack of daylight. After school activities are coming to an end so we eat dinner earlier and gather in the living room earlier. As the yard darkens, the house warms and we sit together in the soft light of the Christmas tree as we read and color, enjoying family time that is harder to come across the rest of the year.
We have prepared, and now we wait with one another. The Nativity sitting in front of the TV will be prominent in the coming weeks as we gather each night with one another and with our family and friends who will visit. One might say that we have our lamp in this common space, sitting at the ready for when the Bridegroom arrives.
The question that is raised on this first day of Advent, though, is are we as prepared as we ought to be? Yes, the ten women each picked up their lamp and went but only half of them grabbed the oil on the way out!
Advent comes around every year and provides a wonderful space for family traditions to be created. Every day the children race to the “Advent Calendar” to see what shape the chocolate will be that day, the carols and hymns play softly in the background of the shopping stores, the collections of family ornaments are placed throughout the house. Churches around the world will gather for pageants and cantatas after families stand with one another and light the candle for the Advent wreathe. We are preparing, but are these preparations now on “auto-pilot”? Do we know what we are preparing for, do we know and have what we will need?
Half of the women grabbed only a lamp with no oil, but the other half grabbed both. When the bridegroom arrived they lit their lamps with the oil they brought and went to enjoy the party. They didn’t just go through the motions of preparing, they were truly ready and they reaped the benefits of that.
The mistake that has been made, the warning that is being shared, is not about believing- the women did believe, because if they didn’t they would not have taken up their lamps and come to wait; it is not about staying awake- none of the women were reprimanded for falling asleep. The mistake that has been made, the warning that is being shared, is that the women with no oil did not fully take part in preparation for return of the bridegroom.
Are we fully prepared and actively waiting? Are we actively praying AND listening for God’s Word in our lives? Are we reaching out to God’s children and helping them to prepare in their own way? Are we fully aware of and sharing the many ways that God is working in our lives and the world as we all come together in the soft light of the Christmas tree and wait?
These are the questions that we should consider today as we embark on this Advent journey. These are the things that we should be talking about and considering with our loved ones as we join together in the dark of night.
The women didn’t travel or wait alone. They waited with one another. They might have even reminded one another to grab the oil on the way out.
We do not travel alone either. This Advent season, we travel with one another. We travel with our families and friends. We travel with our sisters and brothers around the world, side by side, guided by the one true Light.
Let us open our hearts and minds to one another so that we might come to know the Bridegroom in a new way this year. Let us reach out to one another so that all might see and hear what God is saying to us this Advent season.
A Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent
Creator God and Guiding Light,
We pray that as we embark on this journey, as we actively prepare and wait,
we will find what we need in one another.
We pray that Your Light will guide our conversations and our lives,
so that we might be ready when the Bridegroom arrives.
We pray that in Your Light, we will see those who are without
and find ways to offer the Light that we carry
so that they too might join us on this journey
of hopeful waiting and joyful celebrations.
We pray all of this in the light of your Son, the one whom we await.
Rev. Jordan B. Davis