The Wait is Over
Dec 27, 2020
First Sunday of Christmas
Text: Luke 2:22-40
Pastor Jean M. Hansen
Here we are … observing the First Sunday of Christmas, still a bit disoriented following our unusual Christ Eve (or, at least I am) with Epiphany Sunday just one week away. Another Christmas in the bag, so to speak, another year is beginning soon, which we hope will be a vast improvement over 2020. We may all take it easy this final week of the year, but then it is onward and upward, time to face whatever 2021 throws at us. As is always the case this time of year, we are facing an ending and a beginning.
That, too, is the mood of today’s Gospel lesson. It is 40 days after the birth of Jesus; Mary and Joseph take him to the Temple in Jerusalem to dedicate him to the Lord, as was done with all first-born sons, according to the Law of Moses. Their offering of two pigeons identifies them as poor people, doing the best they can for their infant son. And that would have been that, except for Simeon and Anna.
Simeon, a faithful Jew, probably quite old, longed to see the Messiah. Remember, since the time of the exile 600 years earlier, Israel had been invaded and conquered numerous times. At the time of this account, they lived under Roman occupation, which began approximately 60 years before Jesus was born. Their ever-present hope was that one day, the Anointed One would come to restore the people and the nation.
Simeon longed for the consolation of Israel. Amazingly, the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Guided by that Spirit, Simeon was in the Temple the same day Mary and Joseph came to fulfill the requirements of the law.
As for Anna, she was a holy woman, some would say a prophet. Constantly in prayer, she longed for the fulfillment of God’s promises. On that day, the two of them declared that the long wait was over; the Messiah had arrived. Simeon took the infant Jesus in his arms and praised God, “…my eyes have seen your salvation.” Anna also praised God upon seeing Jesus, pointing him out to those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
While all this sounds impressive to us, this revelation was not a Messianic spectacle. If Simeon and Anna, when dreaming of the Messiah, had imagined a handsome King David-figure striding into the Temple Courts, the infant must have been quite a surprise. (1)
Yet, it rings true, writes commentator Scott Hoezee. I’ll quote him: “But there is something about this scene’s humble trappings, something about the picture of these ancient-looking people bearing witness to something no one else could see, something about the fact that it was precisely two little old people like this whom the Holy Spirit would raise up the bear that witness (and not someone from the Temple elite or the Roman leadership): there is just something about all this that speaks volumes about the ways of God and the fundamentally surprising nature of the one true Gospel. And as 2020 mercifully draws to its conclusion, maybe it’s a reminder that God is with us and is speaking to us and is delivering us even when … we do not see some magnificent moving of God.” (2)
What happened that day was an ending and a beginning. For us, too, the Advent wait is over; Jesus has arrived. Yet, there is more to come. So, the story of his earthly life will unfold, remembered by us over the next 12 months, during each season of the church year. But that is just the tip of the iceberg because in Jesus, the “more to come” is unending. He continues coming to us, his identity revealed by the Holy Spirit, just as was the case in the Temple that day.
How many times have I said the words, “Love has come,” or “God is with us,” during recent weeks as we prepared to, and have celebrated, the birth of Jesus? It is many, many times because, really, that is the point. The wait is over. Jesus has come, and he will keep coming every day of 2021, just as was true in 2020.
That does not mean, though, that each day will be without struggle, in our lives, and in the world. When Jesus was born and then presented at the Temple, all was not well in his world. The Messiah may have arrived, but the world was still a mess. More than half a century later, when the Gospel of Luke was being written, long after Jesus had lived, died, and been raised from the dead, their world was even more a mess. Tensions between Rome and Judea had intensified, which led to death and destruction. So, the story of the baby in the manger was being recorded in the midst of turmoil. Does that negate Jesus’ coming? (3)
Decade after decade since then, we could say that the Messiah may have arrived, but the world is still a mess, particularly this year as the whole world mourns the effects of a virus we hardly knew existed a year ago. So, I will ask again, does that negate Jesus’ coming?
No, if anything it magnifies the need for a Savior who brings mercy, grace, forgiveness and hope to the world, empowers us to follow him in the way of righteousness, and gives the gift eternal life.
Pastor Richard Lischer, reflecting on Advent in a recent issue of Christian Century writes this: “Once again he (Jesus) will become one of us and show us the way forward in this world of his and, like the mysterious Key of David, open doors that have been closed for years. It is possible. If Jesus has really become one of us, then he does not represent a category separate from all the things we grieve and fear and wait for. He is God with us – no doubt masked – hiding in plain sight. We may not always recognize this God, but in every act of justice and reconciliation, he will be there.” (4)
In every struggle, every decision, all joy, and all sorrow, Jesus is there. The wait is over. AMEN
(1) “Are We There Yet” by the Rev. Dr. Carol Gregg, December 28, 2014, www.chapel.duke.edu
(2) Christmas 1B – The Lectionary Gospel by Scott Hoezee, Luke 2:22-40, www.cep.calvinseminary.edu
(3) Same as #1
(4) “A Season of Sighs” by Richard Lischer, Christian Century, December 16, 2020, pg. 11