We leave the house hurried, purposeful, drive south on Austin through Oak Park, Chicago, Cicero, small-ish houses lining the patched street. The lights and glare of the Stickney sewage plant rise in the distance. We jog east to Cicero Ave. to get to Midway and the sewage gas smell seeps into the car. The departure lane is crowded at the airport, with mostly young people piling out of cars, heading back to their youthful worlds after a few days back in the nest, lazing on the parental sofa. A hug, "love you," and he's gone.
I change the radio station to WFMT as I drive back home via Cicero Avenue, the great north-south artery of the city of Chicago. It's the church musician's hour on the classical station, "With Heart and Voice," a program of organ and choral music appropriate for the church year. I'm listening to choirs sing Advent hymns, "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending," and other biblical Judgment Day imagery as I drive in the rain through the unnatural light of expressway interchanges and big box store parking lots, the darker pavements passing racetrack motels and old factory neighborhoods.
What kind of Advent imagery would one come up with for this setting? A large Christus Victor looming over Cicero Avenue seems kitschy or almost cultish. What is it we look for in a reign of Christ, in God's kingdom, in a second coming in our age of steel-reinforced concrete and dawn drowned out by street lights? What signs?
Back home I sit down in the big chair near the living room bay window. The pink dawn is creeping into the sky over the houses across the street. I'm curious--will the electric candles I put in the windows last night actually shut off when daylight comes? The boxes claimed the sensors would turn them off, but at $2.99 apiece (and half off after Christmas), I'm not expecting much. It is shaping up to be a grey day, and the feeble lightbulbs on these candles may stay on all day. Does a prudent virgin unplug them, not waste the electricity, or do I let them burn from now until Christmas?
I decide that they will stay on, and in that instant, silently, the bulbs turn off.