Wait For It
"At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four.c She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem."
One of the greatest challenges in our culture is to adjust to the speed of God. We’re dealing with a God who first gave the promise of salvation in Genesis chapter 3, thousands of years before Jesus arrived on the scene.
This is the beauty of Advent. It is a time set aside to focus our attention on the sacredness of waiting. To get ourselves in sync with God’s speed. We read the words of the prophet Isaiah, the words that give a very clear picture of the Messiah...written 700 years before he was born. Isaiah was preaching hope that Israel longed for, “It’s coming. God is about to act. Salvation is just around the corner!” And then nothing. For Seven. Hundred. Years. We can sympathize with the Jews who become frustrated and cynical, wondering if God was ever really going to act. Taking matters into their own hands and staging bloody revolutions against their oppressors.
How did Simeon and Anna see what everyone else had missed? Christmas had arrived, but hardly anyone realized it. When Mary and Joseph arrived in the bustling city of Jerusalem to bring their firstborn to the Temple no one noticed. They were just a couple poor kids from a podunk town. But Simeon and Anna saw something else. In this young couple, a little rough around the edges, with their newborn in tow, they saw salvation. They saw God at work. Fulfilling promises. Entering his temple. Establishing his kingdom.
What was it that Simeon and Anna did that gave them eyes to see this happening right in front of them? They had learned to wait on God. They hadn’t become impatient with the slowness of God. They hadn’t been seduced by the crowd that flocked to other messiah figures.. They hadn’t become disillusioned. They had learned to wait and to trust that God would act when God was ready.
So for those of us who are waiting on God. Waiting for God to act, to answer a prayer, to reveal himself to us in a way that leaves us changed for the better. Let us make peace with the speed and mystery of God. Let us not enter into our practices of worship and prayer trying to create some sort of experience. Let us stop trying to make “God things” happen. Let us stop chasing the spiritual high of “feeling close to God.” Let us remove the pressure from ourselves to become anything and stop pressuring God into doing something.
You see, prayer and worship are about being present with God and that is enough. Not focusing on whether the praise and worship moved me or changed me. But focusing on the beauty and wonder of God. And as our attention is shifted away from ourselves and our spiritual feelings and onto God, we allow God to change us in his own time and his his own way. Not conforming us into the image of a good Christian that we’ve created in our head, but transforming us from something that distorts the image of God into something that reflects the true image of God.
I suspect God transforms each one of us as fast as possible keeping in mind the process must be authentic. Spiritual formation is not a magic wand situation. We all have to make our own authentic journey to spiritual formation. There are no shortcuts. Some of us will be transformed more quickly than others. I believe God cares more about the authenticity of our transformation than the speed of it. He will continue to work in our lives as long as it takes to shape us into human beings that reflect his peace, wisdom, and mercy into our world.
This Avent may we wait patiently with Isaiah and Simeon and Anna. May we not be seduced by the crowd. May we learn to worship without an agenda. May we make peace with God’s speed and God’s ways. May we have eyes to see when God acts.