Remember the iconic house lighting scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)? Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase, desperate for “a fun, old fashioned, family Christmas” has painstakingly decorated his house with 25,000 lights. He brings his family outside with much anticipation. It’s chilly out there. Clark’s father-in-law is…freezing. And then the unthinkable. The house doesn’t illuminate.
“The little lights,” Art, played by E.G. Marshall, says, “they aren’t twinkling.”
“I know, Art. Thanks for noticing.”
Is it even Christmas without light? Certainly not for Clark. Is there even a wedding feast without light? Certainly not for the bridegroom.
This is the third of four short advent readings from Matthew 25:1-13. The first two look forward to Christ’s second advent—the one that hasn’t happened yet. The final two look back to the first advent. Please take a moment to read the passage. It’s illuminating!
Jesus says the kingdom of heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps to meet the bridegroom. According to D.A. Carson in the New Bible Commentary, this is a village wedding where the bridesmaids are waiting to escort the groom and bride to the wedding feast. Five of the bridesmaids are prepared and five are not.
Like Clark outside on that chilly Chicago night, the bridesmaids should have been ready to light it up. Perhaps they’re cold, obviously, they’re sleepy but the mood is still one of anticipation, readiness. But when the groom arrives—jubilantly, buoyantly, unexpectedly—sadly, the little lights, aren’t twinkling.
Well, that’s not exactly true. Half of the lamplights cut through the night brilliantly, like Clark’s house eventually does. And as it turns out, half the light is all the bridegroom needs.
In John’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus is the creating, sustaining Word of God who is also the light and life of humanity. Jesus is Godlight that darkness cannot comprehend, appropriate, absorb or overpower. The darkness is thick and unreceptive—but still Jesus comes as heaven’s light to ignite ready lamps.
Clark needed 25,000 lights. This Christmas, we only need one.
Though the night is long and cold, though we grow weary of waiting, let’s stay ready to light our little lamps from the Light of lights, the Flame of flames, by faith. Let’s rejoice and sing and be merry in the revelation the True Light brings. May it never be said of us, at Christmas or any other time of year, that little light, she’s not twinkling.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "