Our Advent “Baby Jesus Blog” devotions begin today. Follow our postings each day of Advent. To learn more about the scope of the project click here.
At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)
On your mark….get set….wait!
Advent is here! The work of this liturgical season is to wait for the birth of a baby Savior. Of course, while I wait I will decorate the house. And buy presents. And bake those peanut butter rice crispy treats with the chocolate topping that are so calorie-filled I only make them once a year.
The days of passive, peaceful waiting are officially over. Here in Advent 2013, waiting is an opportunity to check our email, make that last phone call, or use the online options available on our teeny-tiny screens. Most of us today are busy wait-ers. We are active in our waiting, prepared to fill any downtime with semi-productive scrolling through our phones.
So what does Advent, the season of waiting, have to teach us in this active age?
In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus suggests that while we wait for him to come, we need to do the work it takes to be prepared for his coming. We need to have gone to the store, and bought oil, and trimmed the wicks on our proverbial lamps, so that whenever Jesus comes, we are ready. This passage suggests that we are to practice a sort of active and prepared waiting. By one read, Jesus seems to be advocating a certain sort of busy-ness as we wait for him to come.
Perhaps the concern of Advent is not our busy-ness, but what we are busy with.
During Advent, we are waiting for the birth of Jesus; we are waiting for Jesus to come again into our world. And the work we are called to is the work of preparing our lives for Jesus’ coming.
When I spend my time decorating and shopping and making chocolate-peanut butter treats, I am preparing to have a meaningful, memory-making time with my family. I am preparing a web of warmth and love that I hope will hold my children through a world that is too often harsh. I am doing good. But I am not doing the work of making space for Jesus to come into my life. I am busy, but I am not busy preparing a space for Jesus to come into my home through the stranger, the hungry, or the recently-incarcerated (all those people Jesus says he will come disguised as a few verses later in Matthew 25).
This Advent I will be an active wait-er, just as I have been every Advent of my life. But this Advent, I want my activity to reflect what I am waiting for. I want my activity to reflect my hope…my hope that Love will be successfully born into the world once more. What do we need to do in the next four weeks to be ready for that sort of birth?
Let us pray:
Lord God, teach us to wait for you. Reveal to us what we need to change in our lives for you to be able to come into the world. Claim our busy-ness for your kingdom, and keep us ever mindful that you are the hope, the light, and the end for which we wait. Amen.
Sarah Jobe is an ordained Baptist minister, prison chaplain, teacher, and mother of two. She lives with her family at the Rutba House, a Christian house of hospitality in Durham, NC. She is the author of Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy. As a prison chaplain, she is hoping for the reconciliation of mothers and their children this Advent.