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HYMN FOR PENTECOST 24 Keep your Lamps Trimmed and Burning/Wake Awake For Night is Flying

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

Text: African American Spiritual Tune: African American Spiritual



Five wise and five foolish maidens Medieval Norwegian design

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

Refrain: Children, don't grow weary, children, don't grow weary, children, don't grow weary, for the time is drawing nigh.


2 Darker midnight lies before us, darker midnight lies before us, darker midnight lies before us, for the time is drawing nigh. [Refrain]


3 Lo, the morning soon is breaking, lo, the morning soon is breaking, lo, the morning soon is breaking, for the time is drawing nigh. [Refrain]


4 Christian, journey soon be over, Christian, journey soon be over, Christian, journey soon be over, for the time is drawing nigh. [Refrain]


5 Keep your lamps trimmed and burning, keep your lamps trimmed and burning, keep your lamps trimmed and burning, for the time is drawing nigh. [Refrain]


REFLECTION

Ten maidens by William Blake

This parable can be troubling. It is pretty daunting. Will we be ready when we hear the midnight cry? I once heard a sermon on this passage arguing that the wise bridesmaids should have shared their oil with the foolish ones because Christians are to share. On first glance one could think that. But as usual Jesus is going deeper.This is about two kinds of Christians, those who are ready and those who are not. It isn't about the oil, it is about being ready. The old preachers used the phrase that some were trying to sleep themselves into heaven. The sleepers seemed to believe that God would answer anyone who knocked and asked for entry, anytime. They did not seem to figure that it could be too late and the doors would be closed.


Many years ago, I lived in Stockholm, Sweden for a month. The subway cars would stop, and then as they started up, the conductor would announce, "The doors are closed/dörrarna är stängda" and drive off. Several times I watched as a bunch of young girls knocked on the door when it was closing, but it was too late. The doors were closed. The parable happening before my eyes.


The parable was also the ending of many a revival sermon I heard. Here it would be one minute to eternity and you still have time. But, like in a basketball game, after the buzzer rings, one cannot make a basket. It will not count. The game is over.


The parable warns us that we must be prepared and ready. Like the Eagle Scout, or the mother or grandmother. As I remember, my mother’s purse held almost anything we would need while we were away from home. If we needed a Band-aid, Mother had one in her purse. A Kleenex, she had a clean one. A pencil, she had one. A piece of candy to while away a long sermon, it always seemed to be there, a comb, a brush, etc. We regarded it as nothing special and always relied on her preparations. Only later did we marvel at her thoughtfulness—it was a marvel of her providence. She had thought ahead. As the wise—or another translation, thoughtful—maidens had.


Our faith needs feeding and tending. God sends the fire down, but with no oil or wick for it to burn, the fire dies. It is our work to keep the wicks trimmed and burning. How, you may ask? Daily prayer, daily receiving God’s word, daily sharing the fire and light. The fire and light give us the strength to do what needs to be done.


Both kinds of maidens slept, the thoughtful five with a good conscience, ready to rise on hearing the midnight cry that the bridegroom is near. Then there won’t be time to catch up on our prayers or Bible reading. So Christian, don’t be weary. The time is drawing nigh! The train is leaving the station. The doors will be closed, so keep your lamps trimmed and burning!


NB! Wake Awake. Although this reflection is from the middle of the pandemic, the information on the hymn is still right. “Wake, Awake” the King of Chorales which is also based on this Scripture


HYMN INFO Like most spirituals, we know very little about the origin of this tune or text. It is one that has been added to as people have sung it, so there are versions that refer to Jacob’s ladder, and other themes in Scripture and the Christian life. Andre Thomas' arrangement of it is considered one of the best.


LINKS


Lloyd Kaufamn Shenandoah Christian Music Camp https://youtu.be/EdfkNKqPTV4?si=4LsVFlRPPyL_kG1o


Greg Gilpin and the Phoenix Children’s Cadet Choir https://youtu.be/6KhTledtX9Y?si=auoKZibY4JDr37gF


Anthon Armstrong and the St. Olaf Choir singing André Thomas' setting https://youtu.be/ZPxVyTeM5dY?si=d_Ey4H9cGl8SAOvQ


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***These sonnets on the life of Jesus for the entire year would be a good Christmas gift for friends and family.





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