by Rosie Adle
Recently, I was out for a run and listening to a podcast when my phone went silent. I took it out of my hoodie’s front pocket and tapped on the front window, to see if anyone was home. No one was. The battery had drained in the first ten minutes, and I still had miles to go before I stopped — miles to go before I stopped!
When I put the phone back in my pocket, it suddenly felt heavy to me. I run with my phone regularly and never notice the weight, but as soon as it couldn’t provide me with distance tracking cues or entertainment, it became like a pointless brick being dragged along for the ride.
Isn’t that the way it is with so many things in life? We don’t mind the weight of a thing so long as it has a purpose. But if we don’t see the point of it, we don’t want the burden.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps” (Matt. 25:1-4).
The wise virgins were the ones who took oil along with their lamps. Why, oh why, would five have forgotten the fuel? The answer is already there for the taking: They were foolish. They might have thought the Bridegroom was just around the corner. They might have thought that carrying an extra flask of oil would be a bit too heavy for their liking. They didn’t see the point of it, so they didn’t want the burden.
Picturesque manger scene aside, Christ’s coming as a baby was an event weighty with meaning and purpose. He came to earth with all its misery. He came to die. That’s heavy stuff that the rest of the world would prefer not to drag around. So they toss it aside in favor of shopping and decor, family time and merriment — and question the burden that Christians choose so joyfully to carry.
“I can’t imagine squeezing one more thing into this busy time of year, and there you go attending church not just once but twice a week!”
Advent is a time when believers show the world that there’s oil in our flasks and that our faith isn’t pointless. We may we do this by putting candles in our windows, nativities on our lawns, wreaths on our family altars or stars on our trees. We may also bear the welcome weight of those flasks in less ornamental ways. We might give to the needy without letting our left hand know what our right hand is up to. We might sit with a friend who is missing her dad on this first Christmas without him. We might even set aside some of our own favorite holiday traditions to accommodate the preferences of others.
Above all, in Advent we join Mary in pondering all of these things in our hearts. We meditate on the humility of Christ’s first coming, and we look forward in hope to the glory of His second. We trust that the Word Made Flesh, come down from heaven, will come again for us. All this “Christian stuff” has purpose and meaning. The life of faith is not a drag. Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. So we light one candle for hope … and peace … and joy … and love … and we keep lighting candles until He comes. He comes!
Deaconess Rosie Adle is an online instructor for the distance deaconess program of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. She wrote this blog post in her head on an ill-fated jog of silence.