You can always tell when the church is approaching the season of Advent; right after All Saints, the readings begin to give us a peek at the themes for that season. Themes of waiting, hope, peace… and today of course, we begin to hear about getting ready…
One of the great hopes and beliefs of Christianity, is that Jesus Christ will come again… Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. And as we hear in our reading from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, when he comes again, Jesus will draw all people to himself, first those who have died in the hope of their resurrection, and then those who are alive. May it one day be so.
The wise bridesmaids were ready. They didn’t know how long they were going to have to wait for the bridegroom, but it didn’t matter; they were ready. They had the oil they needed to keep the light going in the darkness. The foolish, or unprepared bridesmaids, on the other hand, did not take into account that they might need more oil for their lamps. Maybe they got too preoccupied with the parties and the sparkles of the upcoming wedding, and just weren’t paying attention. They tried to get the others to give them oil, which would have ended in no one having enough light, and the bridegroom passing them by. They focused on the wrong details. They got ahead of themselves and by doing so, ended up missing the event they were so concerned about.
We are those bridesmaids, beloved, and we have choices to make. So often as Christians we get so caught up in the sparkle of heaven and eternal life that we forget that we have responsibilities before we get there. Our life as disciples isn’t one that is only focused on heaven. We don’t say to people who are hungry, “Jesus loves you” rather, we show them that Jesus loves them by doing the hard work of feeding them.
We live in the hope that Jesus will one day come again; and it’s anyone’s guess as to when that will be, and when He DOES come again, that event will have consequences attached to it. But here’s the thing; He has already come once; and that event had consequences attached to it as well. The first coming of Jesus was the beginning of the kingdom of God… Our Father in heaven, your kingdom come, your will be done, ON EARTH, as it is in heaven… ON EARTH… God’s kingdom has begun on earth and it us up to you and I to continue the work that continues to bring God’s kingdom; the world, much like us, is in a continual state of change and conversion; it’s not a single event, but rather, continuous, sometimes unnoticeable events that continue to happen, that convert the world from a place of empire to a place of Godly kingdom. And who is the vehicle for that continual conversion? We are. As the Holy Spirit dwells within us, as it moves over creation, it helps us to be the wise ones who are prepared for the coming of Jesus. Waiting, for us, is not idle; it is active and it is focused. It is focused on bringing light into a dark world with our actions. Eternal life is a very good thing, but what you and I do here on earth, right now, today, matters. We cannot be the light of Christ in the world if we aren’t focused on the needs of the kingdom – needs that provide justice to all of God’s people; justice in the form of food and water, clothing, freedom, radical love and acceptance of all God’s people, and by all, God means all.
So beloved, be ready; we don’t know when Jesus is coming back, and we cannot just sit and wait for him. There is too much to do. We have spent these many weeks since Pentecost hearing the stories of Jesus’ ministry; these are our textbooks if you will, for how to be disciples; our life and ministry should look like his where good news is preached to the poor and those imprisoned by their lives by our work and actions. So keep awake, be ready, be about his work. What we do here and now matters profoundly. May God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.