Ten bridesmaids took their lamps… (Matthew 25.1-13)
Among the Advent stories of the need to keep watchful, this one adds a different twist. All ten fell asleep, but some had taken the precaution of providing themselves with more oil.
It isn’t surprising they slept. After many generations, we are still waiting. Our grandparents knew the value of keeping the reserve of oil; they had lived through wars and depression, and recognised a need for caution. But their attitude has gone out of fashion. It’s as though the bridesmaids woke up one morning and decided that their wedding garments were now seriously out of fashion, and that it would be fun to trade some of that carefully stored oil for a brand new outfit.
We did save once. And for a time when interest rates reached double figures our savings appeared to be capable of giving almost instant gratification to our desires. But then interest rates fell, and only property seemed to be climbing in value. We stopped saving, and tested the inflated value of our homes by re-mortgaging to give ourselves a treat; a holiday, a car, a new kitchen, or just the brand new outfit in order to keep in the fashion.
The building societies found that the savings had dried up, so they had to look for funds elsewhere to satisfy the inflated demands of their clients. And now the lamps are going out for lack of oil. We can’t go back to the banks. They have no more funds, and besides, our houses aren’t worth what we once claimed.
We are told that, in desperation, people are looking to churches for a way out of the dilemma, or at least for some relief from their pain. But the one who said ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth’ is not likely to feed our addiction to consumerism.
Fortunately, all we face at the moment is a credit crunch which might bring us to our senses, rather than the appearance of the bridegroom heralding the end of the age. So there might, in this Advent season, be time to reassess our priorities. We might learn to wait, this time for something really worth waiting for.