17 December Matthew 25: 1–12
For me, Advent is full of spine-tingling moments. We are waiting for Jesus to come!
This parable highlights just such expectancy and excitement. Matthew depicts the bridesmaids waiting for the bride and groom to arrive. Marriages in Jesus’ day were celebrated with a feast at the home of the bride’s parents (as in Cana) and once this was over, the bridegroom and bride went to his parents’ house, where the bridesmaids were waiting for them. They arrived after the feast, whenever it ended. So the bridesmaids would wait patiently until the bridegroom and bride appeared – and having a nap was perfectly normal. But when the bridal procession arrived, they had to be ready. They had just one responsibility: to light the bridal procession into the bridegroom’s family home, which would also be the bride’s home from then on.
Bach’s music ‘Sleepers, wake!’ picks up on the excitement with its spacious, flowing tune rising to the good news of just this moment: ‘The Bridegroom comes in sight!’ And imagine that these are modern bridesmaids without an oil-lamp in sight. They leap to their feet, whip out their mobile phones and at the crucial moment, shine the flashlight to light up the night and let everyone know the procession is arriving.
But what if the battery is flat? What if the careless girls have forgotten to charge their phones? The dazzling display is dimmed, and the girls are shut out in the dark. There is a hard edge to this parable which reminds us that Advent is about judgement as well as joy. The story suggests that it is not hard to make the preparations – if we take care to do so. But those who are not ready find the door closed to them.
Lord, help us to make ourselves ready, so that when you come we may welcome you and share the joy of your arrival to the full.