This used to be called the parable of the ten Virgins. When that name did not seem realistic they called it the parable of the bridesmaids. But their function was nothing to do with walking up the aisle of a church service. In those days there was no electricity, and weddings were at night when it would be pitch dark. There was no way to have a celebration without bringing in extra lights. So these ten girls were friends of the bride who each agreed to bring an oil lamp, and provide light for the festivities. That is why I will call them lampbearers.
They all gathered outside the village to meet the bridegroom and escort him to the home. Things went wrong and there was a long delay. So they turned their lamps down and dozed off. By the time the bridegroom arrived the lamps of the foolish five has spluttered out, and they had no flasks of oil to replenish them. They tried to wake up the shopkeepers to buy oil but by then it was too late. Since they could not do what they had promised to do they were shut out of the wedding. But the wise had foreseen this problem, and they had flasks of additional oil to enable them to provide light for the remainder of the night.
What could this parable mean? I think the oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. We are all called to be light bearers in the tough situations of life. As Jesus said "Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good work and give glory to your Father in heaven" (In this case the Father of the bride, Matthew 5:16). And when a crisis comes the art is to be ready. In the army there are long periods when nothing much seems to happen, so you check your weapons and radios, and change the oil for the vehicles. And we can be ready, or unprepared, for the spiritual crises of life.
Any moment there could be a difficult phone call. There might be an accident or a death in the family. Somebody is upset and unloved. The good Samaritan found an enemy wounded by the roadside. A friend gossips and betrays you. Our church congregation is in a awful mess. So there are two kinds of Christian. Some are always ready to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit for any situation. Some always have to go and get the oil from others. They are never ready to function effectively.
What does it mean to be ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
Whenever we pick up a difficult phone call, we look under our breath for the wisdom of the Spirit. In every emergency, we look for power from the Spirit to meet the need. When an enemy hurts us, we ask for protection and love from the Spirit. When we are battered in an awful situation we can summon joy from the Spirit. When there is a need to be met, we can receive the needed spiritual gift for the occasion. When we are suddenly discouraged, we can draw on the encouragement of the Spirit. The point is that to be a light bearer we need a heart prepared for Holy Spirit ministry.
How can we learn to do this? We can use visualizing. Picture each possible situation and the infilling that would be needed in each case. As you read the Word of God, picture yourself in one crisis or another. You will still get hit by tough and tragic situations, but everyone will know that you can be relied on to be a light bearer whatever happens.
Right now we are celebrating with the Lord. Let's ask the Lord to fill
us with his light and joy, and then give us the prayers that our families
and the world around us so badly need.