Parable of the Bridesmaids

Jane Carter reflects on the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids and the Coming of the Son of Man from Matthew’s Gospel.

I don’t know about you, but I feel its all too easy to sit sleepily by the fire and do nothing. Especially when we are encouraged to stay at home and not mix with people or join in stimulating activities.

But though our outer lives may be constrained at this time, in Advent we are told to be inwardly awake, watchful, with lamps lit and plenty of oil in reserve. In our inner lives of prayer and relationship with God this is just the sort of time when some new experience of opportunity may come unexpectedly. In the turmoil the Bridegroom comes at an unexpected hour – this is the message of Advent.

“The Call” by Charlotte Mew describes dramatically the experience of suddenly being woken up and impelled into action. A not knowing, but yet a conviction that we must respond to the call:

From our low seat beside the fire
Where we have dozed and dreamed and watched the glow
Or raked the ashes, stopping so
We scarcely saw the sun or rain
Above, or looked much higher
Than this same quiet red or burned-out fire.
To-night we heard a call,
A rattle on the window-pane,
A voice on the sharp air,
And felt a breath stirring our hair,
A flame within us: Something swift and tall
Swept in and out and that was all.
Was it a bright or a dark angel? Who can know?
It left no mark upon the snow,
But suddenly it snapped the chain
Unbarred, flung wide the door
Which will not shut again;
And so we cannot sit here any more.
We must arise and go:
The world is cold without
And dark and hedged about
With mystery and enmity and doubt,
But we must go
Though yet we do not know
Who called, or what marks we shall leave upon the snow.

Are we awake to the possibility of a call or a new understanding What is God asking of us this Advent and Christmastide? Are we ready to respond to surprises in our lives of prayer?

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