Apparently there are something like 46 days till Christmas. Now you know that’s a really, really long time! In fact, it is 66,240 minutes! – and an unimaginable number of seconds. And the really good thing is that it takes approximately three seconds to reconnect with God and remember what it is all supposed to be about – about the time it takes to breathe in and breathe out once. Which must mean we have over 200,000 chances of connecting with God and remembering how much God loves us before Christmas alone – never mind in the rest of our lives. So I believe that God’s invitation to you over the next 46 days, is to take some of those 200,000 opportunities to connect with God, and to bask in the warmth of God’s love, which is as intense and as full as the love of bridegroom for bride as today’s story suggests...
Waiting is never easy and most of us find it hard to do. Yet it is absolutely essential to the development of our spiritual lives that we learn how to wait. And not just to wait, but to wait in a state of alertness and readiness, never knowing when the Lord will have need of us.
The virgins in our story today fall asleep – all ten of them. There is clearly no problem with that. We need to be able to rest along our journey of faith. The important thing is that when we are called upon to wake up we are ready. Five of these virgins are described as wise because they were ready, with oil in their lamps. The other five had not brought enough oil with them, and so find themselves excluded from the feast.
The most tricky thing for most of us when we hear this parable I think is that it is hard to understand why the wise virgins will not share their oil with the others. As good Christians we are all brought up to share and their response feels churlish and unkind to us. But this is to misunderstand.
The wise virgins cannot share their oil, because it represents things that it is not possible truly to share with another person – things like faith, love, kindness. Now I can be loving or kind to another person, and by being so I may inspire them to follow my example, but I cannot actually give my store of love, kindness or faith to them. Each of us has to gather those stores ourselves, like tiny drops of oil falling into the flask of our hearts that feed the flame of Christ’s light we offer to the world.
So if we are to be ready when Jesus comes we need to cultivate those drops – the oils of love, faith and kindness. And that requires practice. It means a hundred little choices every day. The choice to put someone else’s needs before our own; the choice to defend the oppressed and the voiceless against the violent even when it is not convenient to us to do so; the choice to spend time in prayer and worship when there seem to be some many other things to do that may seem more fun or even more urgent. For in reality there can be nothing more ugent, for we know neither the day nor the hour when we will need our flask of oil to be full and our lamp to be bright.
To make these choices requires wisdom, exactly the virtue that Jesus extols in this parable. Now wisdom has little or nothing to do with intelligence or book learning. We grow in wisdom every single time we make one of those little choices that help to fill our flasks with faith, love and kindness. Every single time we choose to get up and pray, rather than to snuggle back into sleep; every single time we choose to take a deep breath and not return insult with insult, but rather to find words and actions of kindness; every single time we choose to spend a couple of minutes even in the midst of our daily round coming back into a full awareness of God and of God’s love for us.
We all know that the next 66,240minutes are likely to include some busy ones. If we are foolish we will allow the business to encompass us, to take from us our peace and to empty our flask of love, faith and kindness. If we are wise, we will realise the generosity of God and the possibilities of this time of preparation as a means to fill our flasks, moment by moment and second by second with the awareness of God in and through all that is. So that when Christmas comes our lamps may be bright to shed forth Christ’s love and peace in the world.
So for just a moment even now take a deep breath, relax your aching shoulders and your tired hearts, and in a few precious seconds of silence bask in the love of God for you…………………..Amen