Sharp About Your Prayers

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What Are You Waiting For?

December 3rd, 2015 · No Comments · Faith and the City

Two splendid works of 20th-century culture have a lot to teach us about the ancient mysteries of Advent. One is a play, the other a movie.

WaitingForGodotIn a 1999 survey by The Massachusetts Review, Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot was voted “the most significant English language play of the 20th century.” Written in 1949, Beckett’s two-act play focuses on two men on a country road by a skeletal tree.

The men are waiting on a friend. As they wait, they philosophize. They talk about death, and the future, and the meaning of life.

Why are we here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come.

Eventually, one of them asserts that if Godot were to show up, they would be saved. But as the final curtain falls, Godot has not arrived, and they are left there. Still waiting.

Is that our fate? Perpetually waiting for someone who will never arrive?

One of my favorite movies is Stanley Tucci’s marvelous Big Night (1996). Set in the 1950s, the film tells the story of two brothers from Italy who operate a little restaurant in New Jersey called “Paradise.”

Big NightThe older brother, appropriately called Primo, is a brilliant but fussy chef. The younger brother, Secondo, is the energetic manager and bartender. Sadly, despite their best efforts, the restaurant is failing. Unless something can turn the business around, it will close.

In a surprising display of “generosity,” a rival restaurant owner insists that he can persuade Louis Prima, the famous Italian singer, to dine at Paradise when he comes to town the following week. Knowing that the publicity could save their restaurant, Primo and Secondo plunge into preparing for a “big night.” They spend their last cash on an extraordinary feast, and they invite all their friends to come meet the great Louis Prima.

The guests arrive. The wine starts to flow. Fabulous food appears on the tables. People dance and sing and eat. It is an all-around amazing evening. Everyone is happy, except for Secondo. He keeps checking his watch. Where is Louis Prima?

The famous singer never shows up. Secondo is distraught. He and his older brother argue. Secondo is convinced that all has been lost. But his brother offers a different perspective: To be together, eating good food, enjoying each other “is to know God.”

We are all, I suspect, in some way, waiting to be saved. This Advent, may God grant us eyes to see the saving graces that surround us every single day.

See you in worship this Sunday, when we’ll gather again at the table,


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