By Melissa McLaughlin
I remember it like yesterday. With eager faces and fidgety bodies we sat through the Christmas Eve service at church. Angel costumes, eyes twinkling, voices resounding, Christmas carols ringing. We were there, but looking forward, looking ahead, looking onward.
Following the church service, our parents bustled us into the car where we traveled to visit family and enjoy evening refreshments. There we were, snacking on cookies and sipping sparkling cider punch. We were there yet looking forward, looking ahead, looking onward.
Finally, it was time to head home and prepare for a good night’s sleep. As we settled under the covers, all snug in our beds, we were almost there. Almost. Not quite. Just a little longer. How do you doze off when the joy of opening gifts and discovering treasures unknown awaited you in the morning?
As a child waiting for Christmas morning to arrive, the waiting was tough, like a steep uphill climb toward a mountain peak that appeared as a moving target, always just a little farther away. Still we rested in the deep knowing that we waited for something jubilant and wonderful. So although we waited, it was an expectant, lively waiting.
The years passed swiftly and soon my husband and I assumed the role of parents preparing to celebrate Christmas with our children. Once again there was a gladsome waiting, but as parents there was also an overlay of weariness that clung to us. After having shopped and wrapped, cooked and cleaned we set off for the Christmas Eve service with our children. Once again we heard the sound of sweet voices lifting up praises to our King Jesus and witnessed angel costumes with tinsel halos and sparkling innocent eyes. The only difference, after arriving home it was time to orchestrate bath time, assist with pajamas, read bedtime stories and cuddle with little ones who we hoped would fall asleep quickly, so that gifts could be laid out before morning light.
Life hurries along, however, and we always seem to be waiting for something.
As one year ends and a new one begins, perhaps you are waiting. Waiting for the new job. Waiting for the new health treatment to work. Waiting for the paycheck to arrive in time to cover the mounting bills. Waiting for forgiveness. Waiting for emotional healing from past hurts. Waiting for the pain to subside. Waiting for God to answer your prayer. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
As the years pass, the waiting takes on new layers. Unwanted layers. Pain, sorrow, unmet desires, unfulfilled hopes, dying embers of aspirations and plans.
How do we navigate this kind of waiting? There is no neatly wrapped gift ready to greet us in the morning. No childlike laughter or smiling eyes to promise our souls as we wait. How do we wait like this? How do we wait when our minds are weary, our hearts drooping and our bodies bent?
One way is to look back on how others have waited faithfully with the Lord. These verses from Psalms were written well before the long awaited Messiah arrived on the scene.
Psalm 27:14 – Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Psalm 77:11-12 – I will remember the works of the Lord;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work,
And talk of Your deeds.
Psalm 73:25-26 – Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Then in the New Testament book of Luke, we encounter many people who were given the challenge of waiting.
In Luke chapter 1, we remember the priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, who waited beyond the expected years for a child, when their prayers were answered, as told by the Angel Gabriel in verse 13, “But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.”
Because Zechariah first doubted the Angel Gabriel’s message, he waited to speak until the child was born, as recorded here in verses 57-64: When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.
Mary and Joseph both waited while the angel’s messages were fulfilled in their lives, as recorded in the first and second chapters of Luke. Mary waited for the prophesy of her pregnancy to become a reality and then for the birth of the promised Messiah to occur. Joseph waited with Mary as they traveled to Bethlehem to be registered. They waited again as they sought a place to stay and then cared for a newborn baby in difficult surroundings. Each of these people followed the Lord’s leading as they waited.
Two additional people were waiting, Simeon and Anna, as the Christmas story continues in Luke chapter 2.
Luke 2:25-32 – 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
From this text we read that Simeon was righteous, devout and the Holy Spirit was on him. Though he waited for Israel to be saved, he waited with a life that was connected to the Lord in such a way that others witnessed his dedication to God and upright living. Clearly God, too, recognized Simeon’s spiritual fervor as He placed the Holy Spirit upon him.
Simeon is a great example of waiting on the Lord.
Waiting with God means we place ourselves close to Him. How do we draw near to God? How do we demonstrate righteousness and devotion as we wait?
By reading God’s Word, the Bible, praying, singing His praises and remaining connected to His body, the church. This allows others to witness our faith as we wait and allows the Lord to work in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The text in Luke moves on to highlight Anna in Luke 2:36-39 – 36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna provides an exceptional model of waiting with the Lord.
We read here that Anna actually remained in the temple 24/7, worshiping, fasting and praying. Once she recognized Jesus, she then moved immediately to thanking God and telling others about Jesus, the Messiah.
Waiting with God means we place ourselves close to Him. How do we draw near to God?
By spending time with other believers at church, worshiping the Lord, fasting, praying, thanking God and telling others about Jesus.
I love the story of Simeon and Anna. They shine like radiant stars steady and strong in the dark of night. Though the world was as weary and tired then as it is today, they waited. They waited with the Lord. They waited on the Lord. They waited in the Lord.
As one year now closes and a new one is opened, may we wait like Simeon and Anna. Though we don’t know where the twists and turns in our life will deposit us, we know the One who does. May we lean in close to God’s power, truth, sovereignty, goodness, grace and might. Let His strength seep into your tired bones. Let His love warm your spirit in places where the cold world has numbed you. Let His glory sprinkle down like gentle spring rains softening the soil of your heart in places where you are downtrodden and heavy packed with sorrow. May the delight of seeing and knowing Jesus, our Savior and Lord, be our greatest treasure, our finest moment, our trophy of life. For Jesus is a gift like no other.
Jesus is worth the wait.