Waiting

95-waiting-christmas

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. – Luke 2:25

Luke 2 is one of the most read passages of scripture this time of year because in it we find recorded the account of the event leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As Luke 1 records the prophecy and announcement of the future saviors birth, and Mary’s Magnificat in celebration of this life-changing news  (Luke 1:46-55), chapter 2 leads us into the narrative of Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem  and the birth of Jesus (2:1-7). The coming of the King of Kings is announced and celebrated by angels and shepherds, indicating that the highest of heavenly beings and the lowliest of human servants are invited and commanded to worship Jesus.

Despite all of the songs and pageantry that surround the Christmas season today, in 1st century Judea, the birth of a baby to a poor carpenter and his young bride would have gone relatively unnoticed. In fact, outside of a few shepherds, the angels of heaven, and the wise men from the East, it was an event that came and went without any fanfare. In the eyes of so many, he was just another baby. But Joseph and Mary knew better than that. The lowly shepherds knew better than that. The heavenly hosts who sang of his birth knew better than that. While he was just like any other baby in his helplessness and dependence upon his caring parents, Jesus wasn’t just any other person. Jesus was who the world had been waiting for.

The word advent means “a coming into place, view, or being; arrival”. The birth of Christ was the ending of the world’s waiting for redemption because the redeemer had arrived. Specifically, the people of Israel, like Simeon, had been waiting for a deliverer or “messiah” for such a long time. But their understanding of the prophesied messiah was one of political deliverance; one who would rid the Jewish nation of its Gentile oppressors and who would establish the nation of Israel as a sovereign nation like in the days of David and Solomon. A king had been promised, and it was a king for whom they waited. And waited. And waited. But he did not come. Many tried to fill that role but they all failed. Every rebellion and revolution was met with swift and mighty force by their Gentile oppressors. Yet they continued to wait; and among those waiting for the advent of the messiah was the man Simeon, who was a man of faithfulness and righteousness and obedience to God’s holy word. He longed to see the days of deliverance from outside oppression. But more than that, he desired to see the faithfulness and fruitfulness of Israel restored. He desired to see God’s name once again exalted above all others and he prayed for the restoration of true faith and worship of God alone. The Holy Spirit was upon him, and his faithfulness to God in all those years of waiting was rewarded. How? He was told that he would not taste death until he laid eyes upon the messiah of God (“the Lord’s Christ”) (v.26). He was given the blessing of meeting the long awaited messiah. He got to see Jesus with his own eyes.

Luke 2 tells us that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple as was the custom, to dedicate their son Jesus to the Lord God (v.22-24). And Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and worshiped God for fulfilling his covenant promise (v.29-32). Simeon called Jesus “the light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” This prayer of praise was significant because Simeon’s prayer indicated that the messiah promised by God was a light to both Gentile and Jew. Profoundly, Simeon declares what the prophets of old had spoken of the promised messiah; He would come to save both Jew and Gentile, for the messiah sent by God is given for the peoples of all nations. The entire world was groaning and waiting for deliverance. In all the time they had spent waiting, their faith was turned to false gods and idols made by human hands. But with the advent of Jesus Christ, the waiting for true deliverance from the darkness of sin and separation from God was over. Hope and life have been given, in the form of the perfect son of God, wrapped in human flesh.

The great deliverer, prince of peace, and savior of mankind was given to us as a gift, born in an insignificant town, laid to sleep in a feed trough,and visited by dirty, undesirable herdsmen. The shepherds were just waiting for morning, but what they what they witnessed was the dawning of hope. They were waiting for the sunrise, but instead they were commanded to bow in worship of the one who created the sun. Just like you and me, Simeon and the shepherds, and the people of Israel, and all the people groups of the world were waiting. And right on time, by his divine plan and by his divine power God gave us Jesus, to be with us as one of us. He came and walked among us. He came and suffered with us and for us. He came to save us because we are completely and utterly helpless to save ourselves. The wait is over.

Yet it seems that we continue waiting for the next great thing to come along. What we have in Christ Jesus is the greatest of all things, standing before us in complete life-changing love and mercy, calling us to stop and see him for who he is. Do you see him as he is? Will you look to him and call upon him and cry out to him for mercy and grace. Your waiting does not have to end in tragedy. There is deliverance for all those who trust in Christ Jesus. The baby in the manger is the man on the cross and the risen savior who sits at the Father’s right hand, waiting to come again. And until then, we will wait.

As the 1st advent came and went with the incarnation of Christ Jesus, the Word of God, we now wait for the 2nd advent, or arrival. For Jesus promised that as he left this earth so will he return. But the next time Christ comes, it will not be as a baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and sleeping in a manger in humility and poverty. The next time we see Jesus with our own eyes, he will be coming in power and majesty and glory to take home all those who love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

And so we wait. And while we wait we know that He is with us even this very moment (Matt. 28:20). He knows us better than we know ourselves and yet he still loves us and cares for us and interceded for us. Imagine that! A holy savior who knows everything about you, and loves you more than you deserve. We can wait, like Simeon, with great expectation and anticipation for the blessing that will come when we finally see him as he is. That is a savior worth waiting for.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in God is in the Manger,

whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting-that is, of hopefully doing without – will never experience the full blessedness of fulfillment. . . Thus Advent can be celebrated only by those whose souls give them no peace, and who sense something of the greatness that is supposed to come, before which they can only bow in humble timidity, waiting until he inclines himself toward us – the Holy One himself, God in the child, in the manger. God is coming! The Lord Jesus is coming!  Christmas is coming. Rejoice, O Christendom! (p.4, 6)

We wait because we have hope in something better than this life, namely Jesus.
We wait because Jesus is worth it.
We wait because the consolation for this life is eternal glory.

Christmas is all about waiting, but it is waiting with expectation. Not for things, but for the savior. And he is with us, right now, helping us to wait for him. So let this Christmas “advent” mean more to you than remembering the birth of Jesus. Let this advent point you to the magnificent love of God who comes to his people and save them to the uttermost. Praise be to God!

 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

– Luke 6:20-26

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