I don’t like waiting in lines. Never have. Recently my family spent over two hours crossing the border into Canada to visit family that due to COVID-19 restrictions we hadn’t seen in almost two years. Only the strong desire to see loved ones kept me going as we ran the gauntlet of questions, paperwork, testing and app navigation. Without my Millennial children helping, I’m sure it would have taken four hours, and I probably would have ended up in custody!
While I wait, I know that I can learn patience, redeem the time, look out for God sightings and practice other personal disciplines. These habits are far more Christlike alternatives to impatience and frustration, and I do practice them—most of the time. But I admit I still don’t look at long lines at the grocery store or the DMV and say, “Yay!”
However, another kind of waiting that I have learned to love is waiting for the Lord’s appearing. The apostle Paul presumes a posture in which we “eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (I Cor. 1:7). And Jesus himself instructs his followers on many occasions to wait. “Be always on the watch,” he says in Luke 21:36. “Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come,” he says in Matthew 24:42.
David Ewert, in And Then Comes the End, his classic book on the end times, says, “All the aspects of the doctrine of future things is overshadowed by the expectation of the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ.” This is the kind of waiting that we should embrace and practice as a lifestyle. The kind of waiting that doesn’t drain us but rather fills our hearts with joy.
In the account of Jesus’ birth, we see that there were those who anticipate his appearing—in this case his initial appearing. Most notably, Simeon and Anna. Luke tells us in 2:25-26 that, “There was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” The Spirit leads Simeon to the temple courts just as Joseph and Mary are presenting their son to the Lord, and there he holds the infant Jesus and prophesies about his future as Israel’s savior.
Luke then records in 2:36-38 a second encounter at the temple, this time with Anna. He writes Anna is a prophet who “never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Evidently, we are to understand that the coming of the Messiah was not a surprise to all. There was a remnant in Israel, of which Simeon and Anna were important examples, waiting expectantly for God to rescue the nation.
Eagerly waiting today
So, who are the Simons and Anns today? Might they be the elderly saints who have seen the Lord’s faithfulness over the better part of a century and continue to live righteous and devout lives? Luke plainly says that Anna is “very old,” and we know that Simeon is promised that he will not die before he sees the Messiah, a serious hint as to his advanced age.
Are they the prophets of the church, who see the way God is working in the world and the way the god of this world works to undermine the kingdom? Or perhaps they are the intercessors who, like Anna, worship the Lord day and night, fasting and praying.
Whoever they are, I believe we can all join them this Christmas season. We can do so by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and regularly meditating on both his initial appearing and his imminent return. We can also take this season to faithfully pray and work for a harvest of new disciples, knowing that this is the Lord’s heart and the reason for the delay in his return (2 Peter 3:9).
The New Living Translation describes Simeon as “eagerly waiting” for the Messiah. Jesus commands us to be watching and waiting for his appearing. Are we? This season is a wonderful time to renew our anticipation of the second coming of Christ, even as we celebrate his initial appearing. And keep an eye on the Simeons and Annas in our midst. It’s likely that they will be first to hear the sound of the final trumpet and the first to see the clouds being rolled back as a scroll.