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O Come, O Come, Blue Bell

Some people have favorite sports teams.  Some people are into gaming, or that band or musician whose concert you’ll pay any amount to see.  Some people have an irrational love for a cinematic universe. 


My thing is Blue Bell ice cream.  It’s made in Brenham, Texas.  I’ve been to their creamery—it’s like a sacred pilgrimage site—and I’ve taken the official tour more than once.  I got my free scoop of ice cream and my souvenir paper hat. 


I’ve even gotten the behind-the-scenes tour of the Blue Bell facility.  I got to enter the warehouse-sized freezer where the workers all wore full-length snowsuits and drove forklifts stacked with containers of ice cream.  They were stacking half-gallon buckets on shelves at least three stories high—I don’t know, maybe it really did go all the way to heaven. 


Texans love Blue Bell ice cream, which is sold in grocery stores.  It’s a little more expensive but the quality is worth it.  We’re aware there are other ice cream brands; they just aren’t as good.  For a long time, their advertising slogan was “We eat all we can and we sell the rest.” 


Blue Bell works hard to make sure the product they sell is good quality.  That’s part of the reason why Blue Bell ice cream is not distributed everywhere in the United States—only to those places with distribution facilities that can ensure the ice cream stays frozen all the way to the grocery store.  I have spent years of my life outside of Blue Bell’s distribution area.  It was hard.  The year I lived in New York City, I found one barbecue restaurant owned by Texans that managed to get shipments of small cups of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla—it really does taste homemade, too—and that was enough for me to get by for a year. 


After that, I lived in Texas for another dozen years, taking Blue Bell somewhat for granted because it was so readily available.  When I prepared to make this move to St. Louis, I got an urgent message from some neighbors in my East Texas hometown.  They grew up in St. Louis—so they could assure me the frozen custard here is really good, though it’s an entirely different category so we’re not comparing here.  These neighbors met while in college in Rolla, so their urgent message to me was this: you can get Blue Bell ice cream in Rolla. 


So ever since my family moved here to St. Louis, into a house with a chest freezer in the basement, we have made quarterly trips to Rolla, a three-hour round trip, to a grocery store with an excellent selection of Blue Bell ice cream.  We got to where we didn’t even feel that weird anymore, rolling up to the register with a cart loaded with half-gallons of ice cream.  We fill up two coolers and drive immediately back to St. Louis.  This is our special family time, imparting our cherished values of quality ice cream, telling stories of the trips to the creamery and remembering our friends in Brenham. 


Recently, we received some unbelievable news: Blue Bell is building a distribution facility outside of St. Louis, and soon, we’ll be able to buy Blue Bell ice cream right here in the city, in the grocery stores where we always shop.  No more three-hour round-trip drives.  No more rationing our last carton of ice cream until we could schedule the time to make the trip to Rolla. 


We heard the date would be sometime in March 2024.  I started checking the Blue Bell website, where there’s a map of the United States and all the places where you can buy their ice cream.  A few weeks ago, I looked at St. Louis and was surprised to see a few sites pop up, including a store right here in the neighborhood. 


It seemed too good to be true, but I just had to check it out.  It was early Sunday morning, and Lily was awake but still in her pajamas.  Some news is just so good, you can’t keep it to yourself.  I told her about the possibility of Blue Bell at a nearby store, and she agreed we needed to investigate right away.  She put on her shoes with her pajamas, and off we went, to study the freezer aisle, which, alas, had no Blue Bell.  You’ve never seen a sadder child. 


We ended up making one more road trip to Rolla for ice cream—we can’t make it all the way until March without Blue Bell, that’s the entire winter, and we don’t stop eating ice cream during the winter.  But that may have been our last road trip to buy ice cream.  We are waiting for the day when Blue Bell will be as close as the nearest freezer aisle. 


We are waiting, filled with anticipation.  We know how good it’s going to be.  My friend shared with me a social media post from Blue Bell announcing that their ice cream will be in St. Louis on March 18th.  You better believe I wrote that date on my calendar.  That’s the day you’ll find me in the grocery store’s freezer aisle—maybe I’ll bring along a folding chair, I haven’t decided yet—ready to cheer for some highly confused grocery stockers bringing the ice cream I love and have long awaited. 


Some things are worth waiting for.  Sometimes we get a date, a clue that our waiting will end when that new album drops, when baseball season opens, when the new gaming system is released, or when Christmas will come.  You can write it on your calendar and count down the days, trusting that in due time, you will taste the goodness you await. 


Some things we wait for, and the timeline is vague or the timeline is ominously absent.  We’re still waiting for Jesus to return.  We’re still waiting for the reign of God to arrive in its fullness, even though, in our own time, we may see bits of evidence of God’s reign. 


We’re still waiting for the fullness of vision of Mary’s Magnificat.  We’re still waiting for the day when theologians will stop their arguing about whether Mary’s virginity is the most important part of this story.  My social media newsfeed can confirm: this is not the year. 


We’re still waiting for the hungry to be filled with good things, for the soup kitchens to be outfitted with white linen tablecloths and sturdy wooden dining chairs, with neatly-uniformed  waitstaff escorting unhoused people to seat them at their tables and then taking their orders for appetizers and cocktails and entrees and dessert. 


We’re still waiting for the rich to be sent away empty, for the country club members to find their dining room furniture has been replaced with scratched metal folding chairs and plastic tables, and there’s no longer any warm glow of the heat lamp over the carving station and there’s no friendly waitstaff to serve you a slice of prime rib, no salad bar with mixed greens and endless toppings, no clinking metal sound of lids lifted from chafing dishes to release the steam and reveal the wonders inside.   The kitchen is dark and silent, with only a short serving table with a stack of Styrofoam bowls and a basket of plastic spoons next to a solitary pot of soup and the smell of hot cabbage in the air.  We’re still waiting for this. 


We’re still waiting for peace in the land known as holy to Jewish people, to Muslim people, and to Christian people. 


We’re not there yet.  May we see God’s goodness in the land of the living, and may we taste the grace of God, no matter how small it may be, to keep us going in the meantime, to keep our hope alive, to renew our trust, to remind us of the goodness yet to come.  Yes.  Come, Lord Jesus. 


Pr. Cheryl



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