The Gospel lesson for today tells the tale of the five wise and five foolish maidens who awaited the bridegroom. Five were prepared to watch and wait regardless how long the groom was delayed in coming, while the other five were unprepared. Scrambling at the last minute to go out and buy more oil for their lamps, the five foolish missed the bridegroom’s coming, and were locked out of the marriage feast!
Jesus makes the message plain, “Be prepared for the bridegroom may come at any time. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
That sounds easier than it is! When we consider that we’ve been waiting and watching almost two thousand years, no wonder we are each a foolish maiden at times. We have trouble staying alert and watchful day by day. We get impatient and distracted waiting for the coming of Christmas. It is our human nature to fall asleep, especially when that for which we are waiting is delayed.
The simple message remains, however. It is all too easy for us to make excuses for not being prepared when our Lord returns. Rather, let us have sufficient oil for our lamps! But what is this lamp, and the oil that is needed?
The Lutheran Study Bible (Concordia Publishing House) footnotes this passage, saying, “The lamp is faith sustained by regular use of the means of grace (oil).” When we are absent from the means of grace (Word and Sacrament), the oil that is needed runs low and faith weakens. When we receive the means of grace regularly, faith is strengthened and enlivened, so that our light will “so shine before others that they will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven,” as we read in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:16) and the Baptismal liturgy.
Lord God, this season of Advent, fill us with the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, that we will have oil for our lamps, overflowing! Amen.
Prepared by David Wendel, North American Lutheran Church