Advent Essay

Another guest post from Carol on this last week of Advent

Each year when Advent is drawing near, we begin to realize Christmas is approaching–in fact for many, it approached a while ago. There’s a radio station that has been playing Christmas music since October 1st…decorations have been mixed in with Halloween and Thanksgiving too. We talk about Advent–this time of preparation–this time of waiting, but what does it really mean to wait? It’s difficult to wait when the world around us is already shoving Christmas down our throats… But, Advent calls us to wait. Throughout Advent this year, we are looking at two characters in the Bible who don’t get much more than a mention, but the fact that they are named and mentioned, has drawn us to them. The fact that they are a part of the birth story of Jesus makes it even more incredible.

My son, Will, was born on the Thursday before Mother’s Day. I served in Youth Ministry at the time, and most Sunday’s Keith and I worshipped in different services, as he played in the Praise Team in the service that happened at the same time our Youth were in Sunday School. 

So, on that first Mother’s Day for me, I wanted to attend church and have us sit together as a family. Many people thought I was crazy for taking my 3 day old baby to church, but for me, it was exactly where we were supposed to be. At the end of the services, our pastor always invited people forward–if they wanted prayer, or to join, this was the time to come up. And on that Sunday, the three of us went forward for our pastor to pray over our new child and us as new parents. For me, it was a way of first presenting Will to the church–a way for us to ask for prayers as we began this journey as parents. 

And as I read Luke 2, I feel I can somewhat imagine what Mary was feeling as she took her baby into the Temple. It’s interesting to note that this is the first time Jesus is in Jerusalem, for we know Jerusalem will be a crucial place in the life and ministry of Jesus. According to Exodus 13, God had parents present their firstborn son to Him for consecration. This was to remind them how God had delivered them. It is here that I think I understand just a little…that Mary and Joseph who presented their son to God is an act of obedience and faithfulness–It is asking for God’s help in raising their son. 

Mary and Joseph would have been going to the temple for purification–we read about this in Leviticus 12:

6 When the days of her purification are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb in its first year for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. 7 He shall offer it before the Lord, and make atonement on her behalf… 8 If she cannot afford a sheep, she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf…

As they come into the temple, they encounter this man, Simeon. Simeon had been waiting at the temple, having received a revelation from the Holy Spirit, knowing that “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” (Luke 2:26)

We don’t know much about Simeon, but what we do know is impressive:

–He was righteous

–He must have loved Israel and longed for the consolation of his fellow Israelites

–The Holy Spirit rested on him, revealed things to him and moved him at the right time

–He was devout–he trusted what had been revealed to him by God and he waited, trusting that he would see the Messiah before his own death

There’s a little more we will find out about Simeon, but right now, I want us to focus on his waiting…How long had he waited? How many days that turned into months that turned into years did Simeon go to the temple and wait?

Waiting (especially in this way) suggests patience, anticipation, longing.

I can think of many reasons we wait…we long…we hope…we pray…

–For our loved one to be healed from addiction

–For a partner to share life with

–To be able to have a child

–To see someone we love healed

-from physical illness like cancer

-from mental illness

-from emotional hurts

There is often great struggle in the waiting, especially when we don’t see results. In our culture, we are used to immediate results–we click on a few  buttons and whatever we want is already being shipped–usually overnight or arriving in a few short days. We want our lives to be fixed this quickly as well, but real change, real transformation takes time. We wait. We pray. We hope. 

Oftentimes the waiting takes longer than we hope…and it is in this waiting that we will grow restless if we do not focus on the One who waits with us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in an Advent Sermon from 1928 says, “The greatest, the deepest, the most tender experiences in all the world demand patient waiting.”  The reason Simeon could wait as long as he did, not knowing if he would ever see what he longed for, was because he waited in the presence of God.

When Keith and I asked our pastor and church to pray over Will when he was 3 days old… when we asked First Church to pray with us and help raise Will at his baptism… We cannot guarantee results, but we trust in the One who is present in the waiting. We trust in the One who will be with us each day as we raise as our son. 

Simeon trusted in the waiting. Mary and Joseph trusted in the waiting. 

Friends, whatever it is you are waiting for, I pray you do so trusting and resting in the presence and goodness of Emmanuel, God with us.

Published by Todd Nelson

I'm one of the pastors at First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky where I've served for the past thirteen years. The sub-title of this blog is "Grace is no accident" which happens to be the defining reality of my life. God's grace (gift) is the reason we have breath in our lungs and hope in our hearts.

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