The passages this week have made me squirm. I want more grace and less accountability. I’ve thought, Well, that’s the Old Testament. Give me Jesus. Or, Paul sometimes speaks abruptly; Jesus must have a kinder word. Oh my! He’s the hardest of all.
Today’s parable is set in a first-century Jewish marriage. Great ceremony precedes the wedding feast. The groom and his friends set out for the bride’s home. Her bridesmaids are to be on the lookout. When the bridegroom gets close, they will light torches to welcome him. The marriage will occur at the bride’s house. Then the whole wedding party will process back by torchlight to the groom’s house for the banquet.
In Jesus’ story, the groom is delayed. Perhaps the negotiations with the bride’s father over the bride price have gotten sticky. In any case, it is midnight before he arrives. Five of the bridesmaids have brought extra flasks of oil to replenish their lamps. Five have not. They have to go wake up a merchant to get the fuel. By the time they get to the party, the door is closed, and the master of the house will not let them in.
Jesus says this scene is what the kingdom of heaven is like. We can miss it if we are not prepared and awake. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (esv).
The door can be closed. Calling “Lord” can fail to gain us entry. We can miss the banquet of Jesus. Is it really so severe? Before we address that question tomorrow, let’s pause to consider the emotional impact of Jesus’ parable. What does this story make you want to do? I want to stay awake. I want to be ready. I don’t want to miss the wedding. I am urgent, desperate to move from the foolish group to the wise.
Jesus, keep me awake. Prepare me with your Spirit to receive you joyfully. Amen.
Although God miraculously has brought the Israelites into the Promised Land, some continue to worship foreign gods. Joshua tells them that they must choose whom they will serve and warns of the dangers of unfaithfulness. After they declare that they will follow God, Joshua reminds them of the laws given by God. The psalmist affirms the importance of this kind of reminder; telling the story of God’s faithfulness in the past encourages us in the present. The New Testament readings address Christ’s return. The Thessalonians are concerned that those who have died might miss the final resurrection, but Paul assures them that this will not be the case. Jesus tells a parable to highlight the fact that his return will be unexpected, so we should always be ready.
Read Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25. We are prone to wander. When have you failed to keep promises you have made to God?
Read Psalm 78:1-7. How do you put your hope in God? What are you doing to awaken faith in the next generation?
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. How does the promise of the “coming of the Lord” provide hope when present authorities seem to have a stranglehold? How does the notion that the coming Lord will hold us all accountable encourage you?
Read Matthew 25:1-13. How do you daily choose your faith? How do you keep awake?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.