Waiting in Hope
An elderly woman in frail health was speaking with her doctor and expressing her hope that she would have the strength to live just a few more months so that she could celebrate the birth of her first grand-child. Sure enough, the day came and the woman was present and well enough to hold the little child in her arms.
When the woman went back to her doctor he suggested that it would be important to set a new goal so that she had something to look forward to, something to “keep her going”. “Well”, the woman pondered, “my son did just buy me a new refrigerator with a 10 year warranty.”
Waiting in hope is such an important part of what it means to be a people of faith. And, when you think about it, it really is a natural part of what it means to be a human being. The farmer plants a crop and has to wait for nature to take its course, an expectant woman must wait for a baby to develop in her womb. There is nothing that can be done to rush things, they take the time that they take.
Today in Luke’s Gospel we are introduced to a couple of characters who have been waiting for a long time for a promise to be fulfilled. Luke uses the figures of Anna and Simeon to announce the fulfillment of God’s promise to humanity.
Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus to the Temple in order to fulfill their religious duty of making an offering for their firstborn. And here they come across this old, odd couple. We don’t know much about these two, Luke tells us that Simeon is touched by the Holy spirit and comes to the temple. Anna, it seems, is just there all the time.
Both Anna and Simeon were people who looked forward with hope. When God acts and the promise that they have been waiting for is fulfilled Anna and Simeon are in tune. They do not miss what is taking place before them. Simeon recognizes that his wait is over. That the long-awaited promise of God has been fulfilled in the Child of Jesus.
We sometimes find it hard to wait. It’s no wonder as our culture is always in such a rush. Fast food, text messaging, on demand entertainment. We are very quickly losing a sense of what it means to appreciate anticipation.
But the best things in life are worth waiting for. As Christians we are a people who long for the coming of God’s Kingdom. What helps when it comes to waiting in faith is knowing that we are not the first to do so. Our tradition is rich in the stories of those who have gone before us. Stories about real people with real lives and real desires just like our own.
Theologian Paul Tillich writes,
“Although waiting is not having, it is also having. The fact that we wait for something shows that in some way we already possess it. Waiting anticipates that which is not yet real. If we wait in hope and patience, the power of that for which we wait is already effective within us. Those who wait in absolute seriousness are already grasped by that for which they wait. Those who wait in patience have already the power of that for which they wait.”