Children know Christmas means anticipation. They start the countdown as soon as we flip the calendar page, marking off days and counting again every morning. They make out their wishlists and forge their own creations from felt and popsicle sticks so they have something to put under the tree too. Something wonderful is on the way–Christmas is coming.
Simeon and Anna understood anticipation (Luke 2:21-38). They didn’t just wait–they were waiting for.
God promised Simeon he would not die until he saw the Messiah. So Simeon waited. He waited as eyes grew dim and hair grew gray. He waited in Jerusalem, watching, searching. I wonder if he watched the young men in the marketplace, looking for one whose eyes burned with a prophet’s zeal. Maybe now and then his attention was drawn to a boy that stood a little taller, a little bolder than the rest before he remembered what God had told another prophet who searched for a king. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). So Simeon waited and he watched. He looked. And one day he felt something–that tugging, that stirring in his spirit that led him into the temple courts. There was a child there. Eight days old. Nothing to catch the eye; nothing to make this ordinary couple stand out from all the rest. But Simeon looked with the eyes of the spirit, and around this child lingered the echoes of angel song. With God’s “Yes” ringing in his ears, Simeon took the baby in his arms and declared that this was the promised one–the one for whom the whole world waited. This child would bring salvation to all nations. Savior, Messiah, Anointed King–God had kept his promise. Simeon had found the one he was waiting for.
Anna stood nearby. Anna the widow, Anna the prophet who had lived in the temple most of her eighty-four years. Worship was the air she breathed; the food she ate. And because she felt God’s very heartbeat, when Simeon took the child in his arms Anna saw Him too. As Simeon finished speaking, Anna sang out in praise. She gave thanks to God and proclaimed to all who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem that the Redeemer was here. The Lion of Judah was on the move; the kingdom was near. And this tiny, unremarkable babe was the fulfillment of all she had longed for.
Simeon and Anna didn’t just wait. They looked. They waited with expectation, like watchmen who wait for the dawn’s certain coming. They anticipated because they knew what God had promised he would fulfill. Something wonderful was on the way: the Messiah was coming.
Our waiting tends either to anxiety or anticipation. Anxiety comes easy because sometimes in the waiting “not yet” starts to feel like “not ever.” What if we got it wrong? What if God didn’t really mean what he said? What if when it happens, how it happens, isn’t the way we want it to happen? What if we have to give up control?
Anticipation shifts our focus. In anticipation we don’t just wait–we wait with expectation. We wait because God keeps his promises. We wait watching, looking, being alert because our God is on the move and we want to be ready to march with him. Something wonderful is on the way, and we anticipate his coming.
Advent is our season of anticipation. We remember those who waited and looked for the Messiah’s coming. We celebrate with them, and we keep on waiting and looking for his return. We live ready, watchful, searching out his ways and tuning our hearts to his. We listen for the stirring of the spirit that tells us the kingdom is near, and we prepare our hearts and our world for the coming of the One who is the fulfillment of all we long for.
The countdown is on, and Advent reminds us to do more than wait. We anticipate.
How are you practicing anticipation this Christmas season?
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