by Jessica Frierson, Dec 21
How long, Lord, how long? Is there anyone who has not asked that soul-wrenching question? How many of you are asking it at this very moment?
One of my favorite segments of the Christmas story is not even in the part usually read and dramatized at our Advent celebrations. And yet, it illustrates so beautifully the very essence of the Advent season.
Our story takes place 40 days after the birth of Jesus, as Joseph and Mary bring their new baby to the temple for his dedication. (I love the incredible irony here – “to present Him to the Lord.” They are bringing the Lord to present Him to…. the Lord!)
Waiting on the sidelines until his cue to step onto the stage is a patient old man, “just” and “devout” and “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Simeon has been waiting…waiting for the Consolation of Israel, referring to the comfort promised in Isaiah 40 that Messiah would bring to His people. All of Israel was looking for the promised Messiah, but Simeon was waiting for the fulfillment of a personal promise.
“It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” Who knows how long this man had been waiting. Scripture does not tell us when he received this revelation. It may have been years or even decades. We do know that he is now an old man because after finding the baby Jesus there in his mother’s arms, he prays, “Lord, now You are letting your servant depart in peace…”. Apparently he has been ready to die but waiting to see this baby, the Christ.
Isn’t it curious that this occurs 40 days after the birth? Why wasn’t he on the birth announcement list? Lowly shepherds were heralded by a multitude of angels and this devout man, covered by the Holy Spirit, awaiting the Messiah so he could depart from this life has to wait another 40 days? Didn’t he deserve at least a little hint, “Simeon, the baby has been born and you will get to meet him soon.” No, he waits another 40 days until Joseph and Mary bring Him in to make the offering required by Jewish law for the first-born male.
Have you ever felt that way, that you have waited long enough for God to reveal Himself to you? That the time has really come for Him to move? Have you ever waited so long that you are beginning to doubt it is ever going to happen? Maybe you are feeling that way now. Perhaps you are in the midst of a situation where you really need God to help you, to guide you, to fix the desperate circumstances you face. Do you feel like David who cried out in Psalm 13:1, ”How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide Your face from me?”
Did Simeon ask these questions? I think we all do from time to time. King David certainly did. We have quite a few of his psalms that repeat the question, “How long?”. And then we have psalm after psalm that declare God’s faithfulness and goodness. These psalms show us that it is natural to have those feelings and to encourage us that God does hear and He does see.
How many times did Simeon come to the temple in anticipation that today might be The Day? Perhaps even as he was awaiting the fulfillment of the Messiah promised in the first two verses of Isaiah 40, he was also remembering the rest of the chapter, the part we so often hear quoted today: “But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Patient Simeon, waiting on the promise, his strength renewed each day to make his trek to the temple to see if the Christ would be revealed….and this morning, “he came by the Spirit, into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Christ child, to do for Him according to the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God…”
This is what faith does in us. It pulls us out of bed when we don’t feel like we can face another day. Faith keeps us going back to that place of expectation, again and again, because Today. Just. May. Be. The Day. When we have nothing to hold in our hands or set our eyes on, the evidence we have that God is at work is our faith. Faith is “the divinely implanted principle of inward confidence, assurance, trust, and reliance in God and all that He says” according to the editors of the New King James Spirit-filled Life Bible.
Do you need an implant in your heart today? When it seems that God has held back the fulfillment of His promise…
When you feel like He has hidden His face from you…
When you have prayed… and prayed… and prayed …
Remember the hope of Christmas:
– a shepherd king crying out his own doubts and fears and answered by his own great-great-great…. great grandson
– an old man waiting on the sidelines (for an extra 40 days, no less!)
– 400 years of silence broken by a baby’s cry
– a young mother fulfilling the requirement of the law by bringing in the very One who was the complete fulfillment of the law itself
– the long-awaited Messiah, the Promised One, the Hope of Israel.
“Be of good courage and He will strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24