Wedding Blues: The Act of Waiting and Advent
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[Editors' note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. The lectionary reading for this post is Matthew 25:1-13. Keep reading the Bread Blog for more Advent reflections each weekday.]
As my mother related to me many years later, she was mortified on the night of her wedding. She was only 19 years old and had known my father for only six weeks when she agreed to marry him. On their first night, the sound of crashing of pots and pans outside signaled the local custom of the shivaree. All the men and boys of the town made a great and building hubbub. There was no hope that they would stop the racket unless the newly married couple came out. Mom and Dad were ushered outside the house and climbed into the wagon, from whence they were escorted with appropriate crashing of pans through the streets of Webster, Maryland. The embarrassment was still painful for Mom, 60 years after the event.
My mother’s story came to mind as I read Matthew’s account of the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids. You can’t avoid or ignore customs and rules when you get married. It is simply part of the reality of the event. In Palestine of the first century, there was apparently a custom in which the bridesmaids accompany the groom to the site of the marriage feast. The timing of the feast, and, therefore, the execution of the bridesmaids’ responsibilities are entirely at the discretion of the groom. As a bridesmaid you cannot predict when he will come; you can only be prepared. Note that in the parable all ten bridesmaids -- wise and foolish -- get sleepy and fall asleep. Despite the lesson that Jesus apparently draws, “so stay awake”, none of the bridesmaids in the parable is actually held to that standard. Rather, the wise maids have enough oil in their lamps when the groom comes so that they can light the way. The foolish maids do not. The lesson is all too clear. We cannot take the second coming out of Advent.
Some Christians, I know, have a hard time with the parousia -- or, the Second Coming -- but it’s everywhere in the Advent accounts. The first Christians believed with all their hearts and minds that Christ was going to come again, and that, in his coming, the promise of the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection would be made complete. I find myself clinging more and more to the hope that a time of completion will come -- when everything that is incomplete is made complete, when everything that is broken is made whole. My wish doesn’t make it so, I know, yet that has been the expectation of a cloud of witnesses since the beginnings of the faith.
Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, come. And, when you come, let us be prepared. Amen.
Paul Dornan is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. Visit their website at www.nyapc.org.
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