Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Reflections For Advent One

Mark 13:24-37


Have you started thinking about Christmas yet? I'd be very surprised if you haven't! Some of us are so far sighted that we go out the day after Christmas and take advantage of the half-price sales… in preparation for the next Christmas! I've already purchased some of my Christmas gifts. Have you? Maybe I'll purchase one or two more at the auction today.

It's an exciting time of year… that time between Halloween and Christmas… full of preparation… looking forward to the holidays… the family reunions… the exchange of gifts… the good food. Waiting… anticipating… hoping… it's something we seem to be doing all the time. In the words of an old song…"the world is waiting for the sunrise." Another old song that comes to mind tells us to "wait till next year… and hope! What is it that you are hoping for… anticipating? Keith is hoping to find a good job after he graduates in December; Cindy is praying that her mother will be strong enough to truly enjoy the holidays with her family; and me… well, I'm looking forward to the Christmas program on Dec. 5 and then to our vacation in Gatlinburg right after Christmas.

We're all waiting… filled with anticipation… hoping that something special will happen. In the meantime… the really important question is… what are we doing while we wait? Well… in preparation for the Christmas program we advertised in the November newsletter which you received this morning… and in Sunday School today the children started learning how to use the new bells we received as a memorial gift. I'm really excited about the Christmas program and I'm hoping that it will be a huge success and that all of you will be there to enjoy it!

Waiting… anticipating… planning… preparing… we're all quite familiar with these activities. Sometimes we do them well… and sometimes we don't. Sometimes we procrastinate… sometimes we lose our patience… or our interest. Sometimes we don't plan very well… and sometimes things just seem to go wrong. I guess it's not very difficult for us to identify with the story we read this morning about the ten "ladies in waiting."

At first they must have been excited about the prospect of attending a party. In those days… many young women made their living by acting as "ladies in waiting," It was their job to accompany the bridegroom into the banquet… lending an air of celebration and festivity… sort of like the first act of a live performance gets the audience "warmed up" for the star performer. At the very least it meant a little income… and a good meal.

They brought their lamps… lit them… and waited along the road for the bridegroom to pass by… and waited and waited. Evidently he was delayed… and as they waited, they fell asleep… their lamps still burning. Eventually… someone saw him coming… and woke the ladies up. Much to their dismay… they realized that while they slept… their lamps had gotten low on oil… or gone out entirely.

No sweat… for five them. Those five had come well prepared with extra oil. They refilled their lamps… trimmed the wicks… and were ready to go to the marriage feast. The other five were not so well prepared… they hadn't brought any extra oil! There was nothing for them to do but run to the store to get some more… and when they got back… the party had already started… and their services weren't needed anymore. The doors had been shut to the banquet… and they were left outside!

Now the really interesting thing about this story… is that Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this! Waiting… anticipating… planning… and preparing… for the coming of our Lord. There is a part of it that is in the future… and we don't know when it will come… and there is a part of it that is happening right now… the part that we are expected to participate in while there is still time to prepare. What we do on the way to the banquet does matter… it will… and does make a difference.

I think the first question we need to ask ourselves this morning has to do with whether we are, in fact, waiting… and anticipating… the coming of God's kingdom. Sometimes we like to think about the kingdom of heaven as golden street… heavenly peace… eternal bliss… all things we look forward to with great joy. But Jesus describes the kingdom in a very different way… it's a place where the least will be first… where the most unfortunate people will be welcomed… where true justice… and judgement will prevail.

Sometimes, I think, we aren't so sure that we are quite ready for that kind of kingdom… let alone claim to be "anticipating" it! That's a very real concern for us as we anticipate the new millennium and the second forty years in the life of Carolyn Park Church. But our question this week has to do with planning and preparing with the coming of the kingdom.

You see… there is always that "here and now" component that Jesus warns us about. Just as John the Baptist was called to prepare the way for his first coming… so the church of Jesus Christ is called to prepare the way for his second coming… when the Kingdom of God will be a reality. We've been called into God's service… we've been richly blessed with more material possesses than we could ever need… we've been placed in a world that has many needs… and it is our job to proclaim the coming kingdom of heaven. We've been give much… and much will be expected of us in the day of true justice… and judgement.

In the first year of the new millennium the Mission Committee will be exploring various ways to answer that call. Let me remind you this morning that it is not enough to be simply waiting… and anticipating the coming of the bridegroom. While he is delayed… we must be planning and preparing… making the way straight… placing the least first… welcoming and serving the less fortunate.

How will we do that? Well… I have no doubt that the Lord will lead us… for God has called us into service on his behalf. Are we ready to serve? Amen


A Sermon Preached on November 28, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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