Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holding the Light

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For 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, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13

I remember being very small the weeks before Christmas. As a small child time seem to go by so slowly and it seemed that Christmas took forever to get here. My Christmas anxiety and anticipation was worsened by the fact that my birthday falls on Christmas Eve. All of the present giving in my young life happened in a 24 hour period. My birthday parties often doubled as junior choir parties and we had to squeeze me in between services. I really didn't care, I love the season so much. It was a lot to wait for and I was not a patient child. I would try to be very good and behave perfectly as Christmas got close, but it was very hard for a curious and imaginative little girl. Preparation and waiting are hard when one is young, and it can be hard too when we are supposedly all grown.

Jesus tells his disciples a parable about waiting and preparation. It is like a story from my girl scout manual of my childhood - being prepared, having all the supplies and survival gear to always be ready. And yet we are all human, easily distracted, dozing when we should be awake and awake when we should be sleeping. Our curiosity and our boredom can get us into trouble. This parable from Jesus is really not a scout tale of preparation but an invitation for us not to get too comfortable, bored or used to the way things are. Jesus knew that everything changes, and that we must be ready for the changes of fortune that come our way. God's way is always outside the box, always larger than even our imagination, and it is never on the schedule that would make us comfortable. This story is an invitation to be watchful and ready, trusting God in every moment, every day.

Today I ask God to help me keep my lamps lit, to keep the fires of faith and trust burning, and to keep my heart open to the people I encounter today. The changes ahead I cannot anticipate. All we can do is use the tools we have been given and to be faithful as the world changes and the winds blow in all directions. We are safe and secure in God's harbor where the sun may set but God's light is alive in our hearts, if we but ask and receive it.

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