By Rev. Alexa Ho
A sharing during staff devotion on Dec. 5
Early November, I took leave to travel around a few places in Japan with my family. The few days were great – enjoying sushi, autumn colours, Japan’s famous vending machines and cool weather. This time round, we drove to most of the places, so we saw Japan in ways we had not seen before. But on the 8th day (I think), I began to feel the holiday was too long. I could not wait to come back home to Malaysia, to PJ. I missed the people, the food, and even our guinea pig. So, I began to pack my belongings properly, and thinking of what I would be doing when I was finally home.
The feeling is almost the same as when I was studying overseas in Australia back in 1999. Then, my longing for home was more acute because I had to spend almost a year before my sponsor sent me a ticket to travel back home in the summer. As the day to fly back came closer, there was a great anticipation + a sense of joy, knowing that I was coming home. I’m sure it must be the same for many of us, whether being away on a long holiday, studying abroad, or even a long stay in a hospital. The thought of coming home fills us with a sense of joy and excitement.
Two days ago, the season of Advent began, and to me, it’s like coming home. The start of Advent is a season that brings joy and anticipation. Just like how I was making sure I had packed all things and gifts well and properly before heading home from Osaka.
Luke 2:22-38 tells us of two named characters, Simeon and Anna, who were waiting with anticipation, with readiness fit for a servant of God, ever looking forward to what God will do. Verses 25 and 38 tell us what they were waiting for. Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and Anna was waiting for and looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
But many of us don’t like to wait.
From my own experience, waiting can be very draining and sometimes causes great anxiety, especially when I’m waiting for something that I have no control over. Sometimes, our waiting is frustrating and a waste of time. Most of us dislike waiting and yet it’s an experience that all of us have been through and will go through.
For Simeon and Anna, they had both waited for a long time – not one month, not one year, not even a decade. I mean, look at Anna… she’s not only old – Luke says she’s “very old”. He tells us that she was married for 7 years, then widowed. It’s common for girls to be married really young, say 14. That would make her 21 years old when her husband died. Her widowhood had either lasted 84 years or she’s 84 years old when she finally met Jesus. If we take 84 as the length of her widowhood instead of her age, that would make her 105 years old when she finally met Jesus. Imagine waiting for something or someone THAT long.
We are basically very impatient people – conditioned by the culture of instant gratification and everything must be fast, fast, faster. We find it wasteful when we have to wait – but that is only true IF you do nothing else in that waiting.
Simeon and Anna’s waiting was not idle waiting.
There was a consistent longing and expectation to see God’s salvation, and not just for Israel. Verse 30 says that salvation through Christ was for all nations – that He’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles too. Simeon waited long, but the waiting wasn’t dull. While waiting, he engaged himself in a lifetime of prayer and constant watchfulness for the fulfilment of God’s promise. Anna fasted and prayed day and night. And that’s so important in this context, for in Simeon’s time, there were numerous people claiming to be Messiahs, and they would have many opportunities to doubt. But because of their intimacy with the Spirit of God that they engaged with daily, with hearts full of anticipation of what God would be doing, they were granted the privilege of recognising and receiving the Messiah – the hope of all nations – in their hands.
Waiting for Jesus.
The waiting that comes with Advent is fun because it’s finite. On this side of Christmas, we know what’s coming at the end of our wait – and we know exactly how many days we have left till Dec. 25. But in reality, much of our waiting that occupies us is often open ended. We wait for love and marriage without knowing when or if it will come. We wait for children without knowing whether we will conceive. We wait for the one till death do we part. We wait for justice. We wait for healing – for ourselves and our loved ones.
Waiting also brings questions without easy answers.
“Should I continue waiting and hoping, or should I just forget about it and move on?” I’m sure Simeon and Anna had experiences such as ours. Year after year went by, and still no sign of the Messiah. Has God forgotten His people? Have I heard wrongly? Or could it be that I missed it altogether? When will our hope finally become reality?
And so at times, it can feel like we are being tested and pushed to the limits. What else can we do? It’s in the story of Simeon and Anna that we can find comfort today. For the weary among us, for those who are waiting, and for each one of us, Advent invites and reminds us that “to wait with anticipation for God to break through in our lives and in this world isn’t just human; it’s holy and it’s biblical.”
We take heart that when we turn to the Scriptures, many of the saints waited for God either for Him to fulfil His promises or for Him to make things right again. Whether it’s Hannah (the mother of Samuel), Mordecai, or David who wrote many of the psalms that speak of waiting for God to save and restore him – these and many more waited on God and hoped for the salvation of God and they did it patiently. Simeon and Anna had done that in relation to Jesus’ first coming and today, we who follow Jesus are urged to do that in relation to His second coming. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Tim. 4.8: “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me [Paul], but also to all who have longed for his [Jesus] appearing.”
Emmanuel will one day return and make right all that is wrong we see in this world, and when He comes, may we find our fulfilment and greatest joy in God Himself. In the presence of Jesus, we will not regret anything we might have lacked in this life.
And so, we wait… and wait patiently.
More than that, this waiting, as shown by Simeon and Anna, need not be an idle or dull wait, like how we waited for the traffic light to turn green so we can go. Our waiting can be active, which means we get involved in our Father’s work, joining Him in expanding His kingdom. An active waiting calls us to make changes in the areas of our lives that do not align to what is required of us as His followers. It’s an opportunity this season to examine our life and see how well and if we have walked faithfully with Jesus.
Our waiting can also be hopeful, i.e. a waiting that is confident that God is about to do something exciting, and that whatever God brings might be more than we imagine.
🙏 Pray individually and collectively as we wait hopefully.
⏳ Wait actively by serving to expand His kingdom. Not sure how? Reach out to the pastors.
🎶 Listen to “Hope of all hearts.”