The Midnight Cry

Today's daily Advent reading is from Matthew 25:

‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids*took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.* 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept.6But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7Then all those bridesmaids* got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 9But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids* came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

We begin Advent by talking about light. At this time of year when the dark gathers earlier and earlier, light catches our eye and warms our hearts. And we talk about preparation. Christ is coming; will we be ready with our small lamps to greet the holy one we call Light from Light and join our light to his? 

How can I prepare for such a thing that seems beyond my comprehension and perhaps my ability? Truth be told, I sometimes am tempted during this season to strive for excellence rather than to live into the mystery of salvation, to work for worthiness rather than simply to bring my brokenness into the light, trusting that I can be made whole by Love. 

I count among my favorite music for Advent “The Midnight Cry,” one of the shape note hymns from early American hymnody, which is about the story of the wise and foolish virgins. The last two verses remind me that using my light to draw near to Christ is all I really need to do:

“Virgins wise, I pray draw near, and listen to your Savior; he is your friend, you need not fear, oh, why not seek his favor? He speaks to you in whispers sweet, in words of consolation: by grace in him you stand complete, he is your great salvation. Dying sinners, will you come, the Savior now invites you; his bleeding wounds proclaim there’s room. Let nothing then affright you - room for you and room for me and room for coming sinners: Salvation pours a living stream for you and all believers.”

There’s room for you and room for me. Let’s go out to meet him with our lamps, however faltering our flame.