These bridesmaids saw their own smoldering lamps and then they saw their friends' lamps shining brightly: a brighter television screen, a shinier car, a shimmering mirage of needs. And they believed their lamps were not enough. Indeed, they thought their lamps more important than themselves—that without lit lamps, they had no identity at all. In that moment, they measured their worth by how much they owned.

And this is what made these bridesmaids so very foolish. They left when they should have remained. But what faith it would have taken to wake, and realizing their lack, to wait still, in frailty, in honesty, in transparency. What devotion it would have taken to wait on the bridegroom while their unlit lamps betrayed them. What trust in the bridegroom it would have required to believe that his love would have overlooked their lack, that his blazing light would have so dwarfed all other lights as to render them irrelevant.

It would have taken great faith to keep awake and wait. But it is hard to wait in the darkness. It is terrifying to wait, exposed by our need, our emptiness, our humanity. It is hard to wait when we feel like nothing we have or do will ever be enough.

It is much easier to scramble around shopping as we attempt to fill our lives and the season of Advent with so much stuff that we never have to look away from the glare and glitz of consumerism to see our own thinly burning lamps. How much easier it is to keep awake, keep moving, and to keep shopping. But the call of Advent is to keep awake and keep waiting on the coming of Christ. It is a call to keep awake and keep trusting in that coming, no matter how long the delay, no matter how ill-prepared we are or how insufficient our faith, our lights.

It is hard to hear such a call amid the siren song of Christmas consumerism when the season of Advent refuses to shout down the competition. The stillness of Advent is content to be ignored while it whispers for us to keep awake, and to wait, and to wait still, until we can hear it. This waiting, this willing long-suffering, is the quiet, gentle, resilient, and patient power of the God of Advent.