Advent: a Waiting Room

The season of Advent is a bit like a waiting room.

What do we think about in the waiting room? How do we feel? It depends on the waiting room, doesn’t it? If it’s the waiting room of the doctor’s or dentist’s surgery, our thoughts are probably on the diagnosis or treatment we are about to receive. Our feelings are probably a mix of anxiety, apprehension, maybe even fear.

But if we’re in the waiting room in a solicitor’s office where we are about to hear the reading of a will, our thoughts and feelings will be very different. Perhaps we are thinking about the one who died. We’ll be wondering what we are about to hear. And our feelings may be anticipation, maybe even joy.

This morning as I was reading my Bible, I happened to glance up and look our our kitchen window – where I saw a magnificent pink sky as the sun came up. Unlike the dramatic sky we see with manmade firework displays, accompanied by ear-piercing bangs and hisses, this amazing work of art had just quietly been painted in the sky by the Creator, without any fanfare, and left there – just for a few moments – for anyone who happened to be looking.

But I could have missed it. If I hadn’t glanced up and looked out the window, I wouldn’t have seen it. I could have been going about the business of the day, preoccupied with what had to be done – and I would have missed it.

It set me to thinking about those who were waiting, those who were looking out for something – for Someone – 2000 years ago. Quietly, unobtrusively, a little baby was born in a dirty manager in a humble stable in Bethlehem. Most people were going about the business of their lives. Many people missed it. Some were surprised – even filled with fear when they realised what was happening:

There were shepherds camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

But some people had been waiting for the news. When Joseph and Mary took baby Jesus to the temple, there were two people there who had been waiting:

In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God: 

   God, you can now release your servant; 
      release me in peace as you promised. 
   With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation; 
      it’s now out in the open for everyone to see: 
   A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations, 
      and of glory for your people Israel.

And then there was Anna:

Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.

Simeon and Anna were waiting and watching – and their hopes were not dashed. They saw what they had been waiting for.

This season of Advent, let’s look out for God. Let’s watch out for what he’s doing – in our lives, in our homes, in our world.

If we wait and watch for him, we won’t be disappointed.

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