In Jesus’ parable, the wise bridesmaids were responsible in a relatively simple task: having enough oil on hand. Our baptismal task is more complex: Jesus commands us to love one another as he has loved us (John 15:12). Paul exhorts us “through love [to] become slaves to one another (Galatians 5:13). The task is clear, memorable, hopeful ”“ and challenging. Imagine the chaos of the foolish bridesmaids after their lamps ran out””racing around the village in all directions trying to find more oil. Arguing with each other about who was to blame for their negligence. Furious about being locked out. Imagine, also, the celebrations of the wise bridesmaids””mouths filled with laughter and shouts of joy in fellowship and song.
Perhaps the deepest Advent practice””and life discipline””is to learn where it’s hardest to love and to begin your prayer right there. Perhaps the deepest Advent experience is to serve someone, in love, with whom you disagree. Christ is coming, and we need our lamps to be lit and reservoirs to be filled. Christ is coming, and our common life needs to be painted on the canvas he gave us. For in us, in his disciples, he is indeed already here.