I brought out the electric Christmas candles for the windows on Friday evening. My house has two old-fashioned bay windows, one in the living room next to the house's front entrance and one 'round the corner looking out on the cross-street from the dining room.
The candles in the dining room window are on a timer. They switch on in the late afternoon and turn off at midnight. The candles in the front windows have sensors that turn them on late in the afternoon and turn them off after sunrise.
The sun, I believe, is up, on this first Sunday in Advent, though I can't see it yet from my front window. The houses across the street, and all of the houses east of them, block the horizon. But the sky is a bright and pale blue; the sun is in the sky and has wiped away the pink clouds of dawn.
The living room candles are still on--no, two have gone out. The other two will quit soon. Late last night when I went to bed, I thought about my eight lights--four on, four off. Not quite the ten bridesmaids of the parable in Matthew--but still, half were lit through the night, half not.
The analogy doesn't go very far. There's no failure of preparedness in the dining room. The electricity will flow all night. I could easily reset the timer to keep the lights on until dawn. Or I could replace those candles with ones with sensors and skip the timer altogether. I bought four photosensor candles on sale after Christmas last year, plus a dozen extra bulbs. I'm ready.
(What I didn't do was plug my laptop into the charger last night. It may make it to the end of this post, or it may not. )
But what am I ready for? I have to leave for church in twenty minutes. I'll come home afterward to say good-bye to the son who is going back to college later this morning. He's ready--we went to Trader Joe's late yesterday afternoon to buy him groceries. He's done his laundry. His mind is turning towards papers and studying for finals. After he leaves I'll go back to church and rehearse Christmas music with my tiny high school choir, get them ready to hear their "Awake, awake" anthem amplified by the resonance of the sanctuary.
And we'll see what comes next. Two candles in the front window are still on. Watchful even in the daylight.
Or maybe they just don't know when to let go.