One of my early childhood memories is of helping my dad festoon the house with Christmas lights. He stood on the ladder and I “helped” by handing him the string of the lights from the box.

Did I think we were doing it for Advent? Heck no. We were just doing what we always did in the weeks before Christmas, getting the house ready for the holiday.

One of the key parts of this holiday ritual was stretching the whole string of lights out on the grass, plugging them into the extension cord and checking to see if there were any burned out bulbs. All duds had to be replaced.

The next thing was making sure the colors were evenly distributed. Not a bunch of red bulbs all in a row, not a bunch of green ones either. Then Dad climbed the ladder and hung the lights from the eaves.

Why lights? To make ourselves ready for the Light of the World. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light,” the prophet Isaiah promised. “On those living in a pitch-dark land, light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2)

The Bible is full of the imagery of light. “Your word is a lamp before my feet and a light for my journey,” says the Psalmist (Psalms 119:105). “Let your light shine before people,” Jesus reminded us (Matthew 5:16)

I particularly liked that experience of getting rid of the burnt out bulbs. “See to it then that the light in you isn’t darkness…” as Jesus said. No darkness in our string of lights.

Today in our apartment we set up candles in our windows for Advent. And I go through a similar ritual, making sure the bulbs aren’t burnt out.

Our cat Fred might be a little put out that the lintel he likes to lie on, gazing lazily out the window, is now filled up with candles and an extension cord. “The Light of the World is coming,” I tell him. We’re all getting ready.

For 24 days those lights are reminders. Like the bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable who had their lamps ready, we’re prepared. Preparing ourselves for Jesus’ coming.