Oil for our Lamps
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. — Matthew 25:1–13
Howard Thurman wrote, “There are those who have in themselves the gift of joy. Wherever they go, they give birth to joy in others. To be touched by them is to be blessed by God.” Beatrice had this gift of joy, and she shared it generously throughout her 93 years on earth. Her family spoke at her funeral of how in spite of losing her father at an early age, in spite of being sent to work grueling hours shucking oysters at the age of 10, in spite of being widowed with two children by 20, in spite of the unrelenting seasons of sadness in her life, Beatrice somehow radiated joy. “There was always a gentle smile on her face, even when tears were flowing down her cheeks,” her great-granddaughter recalled.
As the stories about Beatrice continued to be shared, I found myself wondering, “How someone who had faced so much hardship could be remembered as being so joyful?” Then an elderly man came forward to the microphone and began telling how Beatrice never let her “lamp of joy burnout.” Rather, he said, Beatrice kept it burning brightly with God’s promise that she would never be left alone. Even in her darkest moments, she made sure to have enough “oil” on hand — enough trust in God — to get her through the times of waiting for the divine presence to arrive and chase away the shadows.
I found my mind drifting back to the times when I was not prepared with enough oil for my lamp, to how in my search for more oil — searching in places other than God’s Word — I had missed God’s presence. Beatrice, though, stayed awake, ever watchful for joy to arrive. She kept her lamp burning so brightly that even in death, her light continued to bless, comfort and inspire others.
God of promises fulfilled, help me to be better prepared for your coming into this world once again. May I remain vigilant to always have enough oil for my lamp. May you find me wide awake this Advent season, ready to greet you with great joy. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Who have been the “Beatrices” in your life, and what have you learned from them?
Donna Frischknecht Jackson