What a year, right?! This has definitely been a year that has pushed our patience and endurance to the limits. Since March, we have all been expectantly waiting for this pandemic to end so we can return to life as we once knew it. We long for life to feel normal, for gatherings with loved ones, for outings and adventures. But more than that, this season has revealed a deeper need, one that has been there a lot longer than the pandemic–a longing for peace and justice, for the world to be made right, for healing and restoration, for Jesus to return and make things the way they were intended to be.
In the book of Luke, we are introduced to a prophetess named Anna, who understood firsthand this kind of expectant waiting. She endured faithfully, waiting in hope for 84 years for the Messiah. 84 years! Can you even imagine??
Anna had only been married 7 years when her husband passed. Instead of getting remarried, Anna dedicated herself to the Lord and lived in the Temple, fasting and praying every day as she waited expectantly for the Messiah to come and bring justice and peace to the world. One day, a devout man named Simeon, led by the Holy Spirit, shows up at the Temple and experiences with Anna the fulfillment of a life-long hope.
At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”
….Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
Luke 2:25-32, 36-38
The season of Advent is a time of expectant waiting for the arrival of the Messiah. As we celebrate Advent each year, we often stop when we get to the scene in the manger. Jesus has arrived! But the advent story isn’t truly complete until we see those who have been waiting for the Messiah finally experience their hope fulfilled. What a glorious moment that must have been when Anna saw Jesus and Simeon held the Savior in his arms! Their prophetic testimony in the Christmas story brings a conclusion to this time of waiting and announces a new season has begun–the season of restoration and reconciliation!
Like Anna, we too are expectantly waiting for Jesus to return and bring restoration and reconciliation to its fullness. But waiting is hard and enduring in hope can be even harder. Anna saw no evidence of God’s approach, no reassuring signs that pointed to the coming of the Messiah…and yet she persevered in hope because her confidence in God was sure.
Hope isn’t just a wish that good things will happen, but rather confidence in the author of the outcome. True hope is deeper than mere wishful thinking–it is the confident belief that God is faithful and will complete what He has begun, that history in all it’s difficulties and details is fully under his control. And that God’s outcome will be good and glorious!
Following Jesus is an exercise in hope. We spend much of our lives like Anna–being faithful in the waiting while God is powerfully (and often invisibly) at work all around us. Our hope is sustained in times of waiting because we know that the same God that kept His promises to Simeon and to Anna, will keep His promises to us.
So today, wait patiently in hope, secure in the One that can be trusted with the future, the One who redeems the time of our enduring patience. Remind your friends and loved ones and be encouraged that hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)