I don't do well at waiting. And Christmastime can produce a LOT of waiting. Waiting in traffic, waiting for a parking spot, waiting in line ups. There are times I want to yell, "How long is this going to TAKE?!"
For kids, waiting for that special day is what this season is all about, and that kind waiting is filled with anticipation rather than stress. They know the day will come -- it's just a matter of waiting, and with each passing day, the excitement builds! They count the sleeps, and however long it feels, they know it's coming!
But so much of the waiting we do in life doesn't have a fixed date to be sure of. We just don't know how long it's going to take, or even how things may turn out. And in every circumstance like that, we face the choice of either getting stressed or trusting God. Worry or worship -- react or relax.
Sometimes we have to wait for something for months or years, or even decades. And with each passage of the sun or the seasons, the wait becomes increasingly painful. With this in mind, it's a challenge to appreciate what it would be like waiting for something that was taking many generations, each generation waiting for the same precious promise spoken hundreds of years earlier. At the time of Jesus' birth, the people of Israel had been waiting for centuries for a Messiah -- a Saviour -- whom God had long ago promised would come. But to make the wait even more sorrowful, God was silent for the 400 years before Jesus came, calling no prophets to speak in His name during that long time of waiting.
How would that have felt? I'm sure it would've been difficult after one generation of silence, let alone 400 years. It must have felt like a crushing disappointment as foreign empires occupied the Promised Land and no Saviour came. I find it an effort to hope after 20 years. How did it feel after 400 years?
That's why Simeon is such an encouragement to me. Luke 2:25-26 says, "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."
After 400 years, this man was hopeful. When the Holy Spirit spoke to him, he didn't look back on generations of disappointment and respond with unbelief or cynicism or with fear of more disappointment. He hoped. And he was willing to wait in hope from the time God spoke to him, knowing that surely God's Word would somehow be fulfilled! And when he finally saw Jesus, he rejoiced and blessed God.
Simeon was more child-like in his waiting than me. Despite the challenge of waiting, Simeon seemed to know the thrill of anticipation. Like Simeon, may we all find grace this Christmas season to wait for God with hope, whatever our circumstances!
© 2008 by Ken Peters