Every Expectant Second
“How long, O Lord?” – Psalm 79:5
I used to work in a restaurant that did not open until 6:00 in the evening. I came in at 4:30 to set up the bar, polish the bottles, cut limes and stock the coolers. Meanwhile the cooks in the kitchen were chopping, roasting, dicing, and the diners were beginning to crowd the foyer, shuffling their feet, eager to see the time fly by. The focus was entirely on 6:00. How long until dinner? We were all waiting anxiously, working furiously.
Each night, against all of this impatience, at exactly 5:55 a line cook named Steve would stop and walk very deliberately out of the kitchen with a huge sauté pan in his hand. In the pan there was a generous amount of olive oil and twelve garlic cloves rough-chopped and sizzling. He would walk slowly through the empty dining room filling the air not with dinner, but with a promise.
A mad rush unfolded the moment the foyer door was opened. A blast of two-tops and four-tops, cocktails, credit cards, entrées and decaf. All of that is muddled and unclear in my memory. What stands out are those few moments before the promise was realized, when the room was hushed and empty and the smell of roasting garlic filled the air.
We cannot wait for God to arrive in our midst. But we have no choice. We have to wait. While we do it is good to know that the promise of Christmas is more than prelude. Indeed, the anticipation can be beautiful. The hushed and empty room is its own good gift.
O God, as we wait for you, let the air shimmer with the promise of your arrival. Let us relish every expectant second. Amen.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.