Welcome to Advent

During Advent this year, we're going to share some reflections each Monday. Hope this is an engaging way for you to begin your week.

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 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.” 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. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
— Matthew 25:1-13

I have an urge to rewrite this story. In my version, ten bridesmaids take their lamps and go to meet the bridegroom. Five of them are foolish and five are wise, but they’re all close friends, so it doesn’t matter much. When they arrive, the foolish bridesmaids realize they’ve forgotten their oil, but to their relief, one of the wise bridesmaids, Betty, has extra. “I figured at least one of you knuckleheads would forget her oil!” she says, smiling. The bridesmaids all share the oil, fill their lamps, and wait late into the night for the groom to show up. They pass the time telling foolish and wise stories, and when the groom eventually shows up, they tease him for being so late. Everybody goes inside and the party continues.

Nobody gets left out. Everyone is welcome. Maybe it’s the fool in me who would have it this way, but the line, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you” troubles me greatly, to say the least. Yet here we are in this season of Advent, and we’re doing some waiting of our own. Like those bridesmaids assessing their supply of oil, we’ve been taking stock of our own lives lately. And sure, we’d like to think of ourselves as wise people, but I’ll be the first one to admit a fairly wide foolish streak—anyone else?

Advent is a season of preparation—a time to be silent, to reflect, to listen, and to wait. Oddly enough, December tends to be the most frantic month of the year. Regardless of how much oil we’ve got in the tank, it’s not uncommon for us to feel “burnt out” these days as we finish up the semester, make holiday plans, get the shopping done, make lists, clean the house, write Christmas cards, and so on… We’re just like those foolish bridesmaids rushing off on just one more errand while there’s still time! December is still a few days off, and already a Christmas frenzy has gripped our culture.

Never fear—Christmas is a few weeks off yet. Welcome to Advent. Let Christ’s command in your life be simple these days: Slow down. Breathe. Watch. Wait. Keep awake for God’s coming in our lives and in our world.

Take a moment right now, perhaps, and let this poem be a meditation for you..

"Let Your God Love You" by Edwina Gateley

Be silent.
Be still.
Alone.
Empty
Before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God knows.
God understands.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.
Quiet.
Still.
Be.
Let your God—
Love you.