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Waiting with Simeon this Christmas

Advent, the season of waiting and anticipating, feels like the last thing we need in a year marred by waiting. We’ve waited all year haven’t we? At every turn of 2020, we’ve waited: waited for lockdowns to end, the church to assemble again ‘normally’, for hospital beds to empty, that the holidays would be better. We’ve waited for social justice reform, for economic relief, election results, and vaccines. We’ve waited for sports to return, schools and movie theaters to reopen, and the church to assemble for worship again ‘normally.’

We’ve waited and waited and waited. We’ve considered any bit of news, any whisper of hope that this way of life would end and a new one (or something that resembles the old one) would come. As I read about Simeon in Luke 2:22-35, I wonder how he felt about waiting. You won’t find many songs written about him, but his hope and example resonate with me this year. The exile, isolation, darkness, and disappointment Israel faced was real.

Luke tells us, “Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:25-26).

Simeon was a righteous man who had received revelation that before he died, his eyes would see the long-awaited Messiah. Think about waking up every single day knowing ‘today could be the day’. Only to go to sleep night after night without it happening.

Simeon’s waiting parallels our waiting by teaching not only how we wait but who and what we wait for.

Yet, nowhere does the Bible describe that his hope had wavered. God appointed the time and the Holy Spirit moved Simeon to go to the temple on the day Joseph and Mary were presenting Jesus to the Lord.

Simeon sees the young Jesus with his own eyes and says, “Now you dismiss your servant in peace.” No matter the length of time on this earth God gives us, this waiting is a life well-lived.

Simeon is professing to the Lord, that he can die now, knowing God fulfilled His promise. That was enough for him. Simeon declares that Jesus will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Like Simeon, we do not wait alone. He waited with the faithful believers of Israel— who trusted in the promise of salvation. We wait together with the church—members of the body of Christ who believe he came once and believe in his promise to come again to bring life everlasting.

God is so committed to His character, that He would not leave us or forsake us, and His very Spirit to ‘wait’ with us! The Christian life does not turn a blind eye or give clichés to suffering. “Good things come to those who wait.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “Time heals all wounds.” These platitudes only succeed in suggesting we have an answer to the one thing no one can overcome alone: death.

Simeon goes on to say that her son will ‘divide the Jewish people’ (Isaiah 8:14-15). You usually prefer to give the bad news first. He flips the order.

The Messiah the people wanted is not exactly the Messiah that is given. He’s so much more. But surrendering to this kind of Messiah means our lives are transformed and centered on Him. It messes with our sensibilities to know that our core will be unraveled and light will expose us for what we are. But this Jesus has come to nourish and sustain us like nothing else.

As we wait, we can “follow the trail of breadcrumbs...because He is the Bread of Life! We can feast on Him!”

Just as a surgeon brings peace to the body with a tumor by cutting it open, so God sometimes has to cut us so we can know peace. But our waiting is never in vain when we are waiting on the best thing that will rule forever....JESUS!

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