Some Christian denominations have a tradition called Watch Night -- a service of prayer and worship at midnight as the New Year arrives. The focus of the last gathering of the year/first gathering of the new year typically contains five parts: review, confess, prepare, pray, & resolve. I've never been part of a service like that, but I love the concept.
In Matthew 25:1-13, we read the parable of the 10 virgins as told by Jesus. Jewish weddings were multi-day events steeped in tradition that included the groom coming for his bride. With some of his friends with him, the bridegroom would walk through the streets at night to go to the bride's home at an unannounced hour. The ladies would eagerly watch for his coming. After a brief ceremony, the bridal party would march through the streets back to the bridegroom's prepared house. Every bridesmaid had to be prepared by having their lamps filled with oil so they could join the bridal party in the streets.
If you didn't have a torch or an oil lamp, you were assumed to be a wedding crasher.
We know this parable is about Jesus and His church. He's the bridegroom; we're the bride. And he says he will come at an unannounced hour, and we are told to watch for the signs of his coming. [He tells us to watch and pray often, actually.] He wants us to stay alert, to guard against sin, to study the scriptures so we're not caught off guard, and to guard against complacency.
The 10 virgins weren't all ready for the bridegroom. In fact, five of them were 'sleeping off the party' and failed to think ahead in order to be prepared. When the bridegroom came, they tried to mooch oil off the ones who were prepared...but it was too little too late. And they were left out of the wedding party because they refused to be prepared.
A few years ago, I had an acquaintance that asked for my help in moving. I had a four hour window, so I thought I could get a lot done for him in on a Saturday morning. We set the date in advance, and since he had to be out of his small apartment the next day, I was prepared to work fast. I confirmed I was coming a couple days ahead of time and even sent a text as I was leaving the house.
When I got to his place, I saw he had hardly even begun to pack. No moving truck. Nothing packed. Total chaos. His excuse? His friends had invited him out the night before for a farewell party. He and I both knew it was a weak excuse, I but I gave him my four available hours. And he was left with a lot of unfinished business.
That's what Jesus is telling us with this parable. Don't get caught up in all these things we think are so important and be unprepared for the most important thing.
Get your house in order.
As we make this transition into the new year, take time to review the past year, confess what needs to be confessed to God, prepare for what God is calling you to, pray and seek God whole-heartedly, and resolve to remain committed to Christ in the year ahead.
We don't know when the bridegroom comes, but we do know he wants us to be watching and preparing and continuing his important work until he does.
I hope 2018 is that kind of year.