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Friday, October 24, 2014

Keep your lamps trimmed and burning;
keep your lamps trimmed and burning;
keep your lamps trimmed and burning,
for the time is drawing nigh.

Sisters, don’t grow weary;
brothers, don’t grow weary.

It’s our faith makes us happy;
it’s our faith makes us happy;
it’s our faith makes us happy,
for the time is drawing nigh.

“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”
(tune: Keep Your Lamps)
African American spiritual
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

The point is to be ready. And to stay alert. And to live expectantly. That’s what it means to keep our lamps trimmed and burning.

Our daughter, whose baby is now just over a month old, talked for awhile before the baby’s birth about packing her hospital bag. That bag was packed days before her due date, because at any moment their baby would be born. She and her husband needed to be ready.

I find myself walking around Chicago with a great deal of attention on being alert. I don’t want to trip because of a pothole. I guard my purse. I’m watchful for possible traffic, for lights changing, for cars or people not paying attention. I try not to be distracted. I stay alert.

Sometimes I wake early enough to watch for the sunrise. If I have time, I find out what time the sun is expected to come up and place myself at our windows ahead of that moment, so that I can wait for that special first glimpse of the sun’s light peeking out from the horizon. It’s a thrilling moment. I’ve been expectant.

The words of this African American spiritual remind us to be ready and alert and expectant for the visible work of God in our lives and in the world. To keep our lamps trimmed and burning is to wake up with the expectation that God will act in our lives and in the world during each day. If we are ready and alert and live with expectation, it’s amazing how much more we see. It had to have been constant work to keep those lamps trimmed and burning. I think it still is. But I also know it’s worth the work.

Good and gracious God, forgive the many days in my life when expecting to meet you was the farthest thing from my mind. Forgive the constant pull toward distraction or cynicism or discouragement, for I know that those things are like magnets, exerting negative force on my heart. Have mercy on my inattention and help me to live with renewed expectation that I will see your miraculous works, your redeeming love, and your inexplicable presence. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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