Monday, November 28, 2011

The Acorn 7

"Let There Be Light"
Advent 2011
by Teresa Franklin

As we begin the season of Advent, I'm grateful that the Revised Common Lectionary has in a way already set the stage for our journey to Christmas. Advent literally means “coming,” and it's the season of the year in which we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ-child to Bethlehem’s manger.

I say the Lectionary has set the stage for Advent because the Gospel lessons for the first three Sundays of November were from Matthew 25, the theme of which is the return of Christ, or what some call the ‘last days’ or ‘second coming.’ Though apocalypse isn’t one of my favorite topics, I got a lot out of my study of the "Keep Watch" parables of Matthew 25 during November. And I believe that what I saw in them isn’t applicable only to the second coming of Jesus. It seems just as appropriate for our preparation and sense of expectation for the coming of Christ at Christmas.

An example from Matthew 25 is the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. It uses the image of the oil lamp to make a point to the Early Church – be vigilant that the light of Christ doesn't go out before he comes again. In the story, none of the bridesmaids knows how long they’ll have to wait for the arrival of the bridegroom. Some prepare more thoroughly than the others and reap the benefits, while the less-prepared find themselves locked out of the wedding banquet. My take-away is that the bridesmaids are invited to the wedding not simply for their benefit and pleasure but also for the purpose of honoring the bride and groom with a lighted procession upon their arrival. The bridesmaids serve a function, and half of them take their responsibility seriously enough to have come prepared to wait long into the night to fulfill their intended purpose.

Like the bridesmaids, our faithfulness as Christians isn't just for our own benefit. It serves to honor the  Bridegroom – the Lord - his existence, his arrival, his presence. If the Church is to endure throughout a long night of waiting in order to honor Christ’s presence, whether that presence is in the Eucharist, or the Advent, or the Second Coming, we – each and every member of the Church - must prepare not only for his arrival but also for the wait which anticipates his arrival.

Isn't that the purpose of Advent – to prepare for Christ’s coming? Perhaps it’s time to stock up on fuel, whatever that might mean in the life of each faithful follower. Into the dark night of human history Christ comes: let us be ready with light to honor his coming.

I invite you to review all the parables of Matthew 25 during Advent. Apocalyptic or not, these poignant stories serve to ready us for our annual waiting for the arrival of our Lord, our season of eager anticipation for the marvelous event that’s coming, that waits around the corner, just out of sight. Like the illusive Kingdom of God, Advent is both ‘now and not yet.’ It is both here, and it is coming. Let us actively await - and then celebrate – God with us.

Welcome to Advent!