I will post here a simplified version of my sermon in three parts but you have the complete French version at my Church site here
The word "Advent" comes from the Latin Adventus, "the comming". Today, and that is since the VI century, The Advent has become synonymous of preparations for Christmas celebrations “the coming of Jesus Child”. Yet the term "coming/advent” remains deliberately ambiguous.
This morning I will use the parable of the ten virgins, because I want to rediscover with you the spirit of Advent, the preparation for the coming of our Lord in the same spirit of our fathers of the early church.
I will use a simple Bible study methodologyto re-read this parable, I call it, in a very colourful way: "the three-dimensional approach" because it allows us to approach the Word of God from three different perspectives:
a). What I understand at my first reading? What is the message that I find, and what I do, and I do not understand?
b). What the people who heard these words understood at the time?
c). What God really wants me/us/you to understand today?
a) - What I understand ...The parable of the Ten Virgins always has challenged me throughout my life. Why 5 foolish and 5 wises? Why? Where am I in this parable? What is the real difference between the wise and the foolish? After all, the 10 virgins were all in a waiting mode, aren’t they? Am I on a waiting mode? Am I Wise? Or foolish?
Even more, I always found hard the response of the bridegroom: "I do not know you." And I am stunned with the wise virgins response to the demand for oil of their fellow foolish virgins "rather go to those who sell and buy-in for you”’. It is hard not to feel a kind of sadness for the foolish virgins and even fear ... and if we were one of the foolish virgins?
The traditional interpretation of this parable is based on the spiritualisation of the oil and the lamp. The oil is associated to the "Holy Spirit", the wise virgins keep “extra oil”. When the groom arrives only those who still have oil, so "The Holy Spirit", and kept their lights on are accepted at the wedding.
Therefore: the moral of this story would be: “keep your lights on!, Be always filled with the Holy Spirit”
But the main problem of this “beautiful interpretation” is that even if it is very spiritual, and somehow reassuring, it leaves many questions unanswered, and even worst, it opens up new questions!
1. If the oil runs out of foolish virgins. Can we say that it is possible that the Holy Spirit once given it may run out later?Can the Holy Spiriy be used it up?
2. The wise virgins had brought an extra ration of oil ... so the parable not only opens the door to a concept of different levels of Holy Spirit. But also to the idea that some Christians may have a ration of the Holy Spirit, that is so low and insufficient to qualify them to the .
3. If the oil is the Holy Spirit, why the response of the wise virgins is "rather go to those who sell and buy-in for you?” Why they do not say: "go and ask the Groom before He arrives!!”
4. If the 5 wise virgins had an extra ration of oil, therefore the Holy Spirit, why do they fall asleep too? Is falling asleep actually a fault?
5. If the groom had arrived some hours earlier, the foolish would still have had the Holy Spirit. Then they would be accepted at the wedding and they would no longer be considered foolish. So it is the delay of the groom who condemned them! (is this Biblical?)
And there are still many other question that the parable opens that remain unanswered:
1. Who are these ten virgins? Will they marry the groom? Is this an openness to polygamy?
2. Jesus begins the parable with the sentence: "Then the kingdom of heaven is like..." What or who is the in this parable?, The wedding? The coming of the groom? The virgins? The wise and the foolish?
3. Why do they fall asleep? What difference makes that they are asleep or awake? After all, even awake, given the groom's delay, the follish will not be ready because they do not have enough oil.
4. Why are they called there foolish? Why this name? Why "Foolish"?
lets see the
b)What the people who heard these words understood at the time?
............ to be continue