“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” is a bluesy spiritual first sung by slaves on the plantation and then later while fighting the Civil War.
Take a listen.
The message continues to echo today.
Matthew, one of Jesus’ disciples, records Jesus saying the same message in Matthew 25.
There is a wedding. As the bride walks in, ten bridesmaids are waiting for the groom with torches lit. They don’t know when he’s arriving, but they know it’s soon.
Five bridesmaids brought extra oil for their lamps, not knowing how long they might be waiting. But, unfortunately, five of them didn’t get any excess oil.
So, the bridesmaids without oil asked the ones with oil if they could use some of theirs. The answer is that there is not enough to go around.
Midnight comes, and the groom arrives. The bridesmaids without oil are out trying to find some. The bridesmaids who had the extra oil meet the groom, and the wedding goes on.
When the bridesmaids without extra oil arrived back at the wedding, the ceremony had begun, and they could not participate in the marriage.
An interesting story.
Here’s the point: Be and stay ready because Jesus is coming soon.
Keep your hearts trimmed and burning… for Christmas… and His final Christmas.
This is Jesus’ Christmas wish for us.
Keep your heart ready like you have this advent season because Jesus has promised to come again, not only at Christmas but again very soon (Revelation 22:7).
I just had my in-laws in town.
Just like we prepare our home for guests, advent is all about preparing our heart for Jesus’ arrival.
When it comes to preparing my home for guests or my heart for Jesus, I have found that as I get older, different things matter.
Here are three things that just don’t matter as much to me now as they once did (and one that will always matter to me).
Maybe you can relate…
1. A Super Clean House
I used to really value my house being cleaner than a hospital room. I would stay up until 3am stressing out whether or not it was “clean enough”. I make sure things are clean (Beth makes sure of it). However, I don’t stay up as late or stress out about it.
Maybe it’s because we have kids and the moment they come home from school, the floor is covered with dirt anyway. Or, maybe I’m just tired and want to go to bed at night. It’s probably a little bit of both.
My point is, I am getting okay with messiness.
It reminds me that Jesus is OK with the messiness of my heart. In fact, it’s because my heart is messy that Jesus was born. It’s more important to be honest with my own mess and to welcome Jesus’ love and grace-filled presence right where I am.
It is what it is - whether it’s my house or my heart. Guests are coming… Jesus is coming… and this is who I am - and I’m loved either way.
2. My Perfect Plan
If you’re “Type A”, you and I can high-five. We enjoy our schedules and planning for what is to come. I used to have “a perfect plan” for when people visit.
As much as I love schedules, I have found that they don’t matter to me as much as they used to. I’m getting better with knowing just enough.
God is on his schedule. Jesus’ birth is on God’s time, not mine. I can plan and schedule all I want - but God’s time is the perfect time whether my schedule agrees or not.
And sometimes knowing just enough is the best way to live. And to be honest, the older I get, the less I’m finding that I know. So, there’s that, too.
3. Being in Control of the Situation
All of us struggle to some degree adapting to situations and environments that are out of our control.
When guests visit us, we just know that something is going to happen that is going to lead us to pivot plans and what we want to do. It’s uncomfortable and sometimes I don’t know what to do.
For example, my father in-law broke his hip last Thanksgiving. Our weekend of watching football, playing, and exploring the area was spent in doctors offices, hospital rooms, and being available for whatever needed to happen.
Chaos happens. And when chaos happens, we are not in control of the situation.
I used to think through every scenario in order to be prepared and in control of whatever might happen. I’ve learned that while preparing is important, you can never think through every scenario and you will never be fully prepared when chaos happens.
So, I’ve had to learn to give up control. It’s not that I don’t plan anymore… I do. I have surrendered my need to control being available to respond to the moment.
And, I’m learning that this is the Jesus way, too. When Jesus enters the chaos of this world, people surrender to his moments. Or, Carrie Underwood puts it best, we pray, “Jesus take the wheel”.
While all these things seem to be fading as I get older, one thing will always matter to me - being together.
And that’s the point of Advent (and Christmas).
Emmanuel. God with us.
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor. Tim studied sociology, psychology, and theology prior to earning his M.Div at Concordia Seminary - St. Louis. He has also is a candidate for an Ed.D (ABD) in Transformational Leadership. He is married to Beth and they have three young children. Together, they enjoy exploring the outdoors, experiencing culture, and pizza and movie nights.