Learning to wait well is one of life’s greatest challenges.
The author of the book of Lamentations knew this to be true when he referred to waiting as a “yoke”—a difficult burden—that people should learn to bear in their youth (Lamentations 3:27). In other words, we never “graduate” from waiting, which means that the sooner we learn to do it well, the better.
This verse sent me on a mission to try to help my kids learn to wait well. So far, so difficult!
Some time ago we had friends coming to visit from out of town. As I withstood a barrage of “Are they here yet?” type questions from my kids, I realized that I could leverage the intuitive connection within each of us between waiting and looking.
“Why don’t you go out on the front porch and keep an eye out for them?” I suggested. I don’t think I had even finished my sentence before they were gone.
Waiting and Seeing
When we’re waiting, we’re also typically on the lookout. This was certainly true for Simeon, whose story comes to us in the book of Luke.
There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, waiting for Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said,
you can dismiss your servant in peace,
as you promised.
For my eyes have seen your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:25–32 (ESV)
Do you see it? The connection between waiting and seeing. God had promised Simeon that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. And then, Simeon’s masterful declaration, with the baby Jesus in his arms, that my eyes have seen God’s salvation. Amen and amen.
The Advent season is upon us again. Advent literally means “coming,” and this season is a time we seek to grow in our ability to wait well for Jesus’ second advent/coming by reflecting back upon his first advent/coming. In other words, we ought to “be out on the front porch, keeping an eye out” for Jesus.
But what do we do when it’s hard to see what God is up to? How do we respond when it feels like God has forgotten about us and all we can see is darkness? How do we wait well when we’ve already been waiting for so long?
Waiting and Christmas
I imagine that Simeon sometimes wrestled with questions like that. Anna too (Luke 2:36-38). Maybe Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and perhaps even the angel Gabriel also struggled waiting and wondering. You can almost picture him, right? “God, what ARE you up to with this strange plan?”
This Advent season let’s connect anew with the sometimes strange Christmas story, and what some people saw that first Christmas, waiting and watching for God to show up and fulfill his promises.