For the first time in my life, I’m one of the smug people who, at the beginning of December, has (almost) DONE the Christmas shopping! I have never been this prepared for Christmas before ever. I might even start wrapping things soon (not normally done until Christmas Eve).
BUT I’m not actually finished – there’s still those last couple of presents to get that I’m in danger of forgetting about. Am I feeling too smug and starting to sit back complacently already? Will I still be buying and wrapping presents on Christmas Eve after all?
The 10 bridesmaids
In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a parable about ten bridesmaids who waited for the arrival of the groom at a wedding (in traditional Hebrew weddings the groom was who the guests waited for rather than the bride). All ten of them had made their lengthy preparations and turned up ready for the wedding to start. Everything looked like the marriage was going to go smoothly.
Unfortunately, the groom took longer to arrive than any of the bridal party had anticipated. Darkness fell, and he still hadn’t arrived. The bridesmaids fell asleep. Finally, in the middle of the night, the arrival of the groom was announced! “He’s coming! Get ready!”
But for five of the bridesmaids, their preparations had only been temporary, and weren’t enough to last the night. They only had oil in the lanterns to last for the expected time, and no more. Their oil had gone! The five who still had oil only had enough for their own lamps. Only the five with lit lanterns were allowed into the wedding. The others had to go away from the wedding to buy oil and by the time they came back the doors to the wedding were closed. They were shut out, with the sobering words ‘depart, I never knew you’.
Jesus sums up the parable with the word ‘watch’. We don’t know when to expect Jesus’ return to Earth to set up the Kingdom of God. What are we doing about that? Are we preparing carefully and looking out for it? Or quietly thinking that we’ve probably done enough? Are we spending our time feeling smug about the 90% of presents that we have prepared for Christmas, or working to get the 10% that we haven’t? Do we want to be invited in to the wedding, like the prepared bridesmaids, or left out in the cold with the complacent ones?
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour…