Yesterday we discovered the amazing story Simeon, an obscure figure in the Christmas story. (Luke 2:25-32) It would be easy to skim right over it. Once you look more carefully, however, you find a most incredible account of a man whose life was oriented to recognizing and responding to even the smallest movements of God. Living with a promise from the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s Christ, Simeon embraced a relaible rhythm of active waiting, seeking and responding. Even when its fulfillment was “delayed,” he never wavered.
That’s the hard part about waiting. I can wait for a while but when it extends beyond what I think reasonable, there is huge push-back. It feels like a wasted space becasue nothing, it seems, is happening. Life is passing me by and I want to move on to “real” life and more important things. Hope gets pounced on. What if what I am waiting for never happens? Or what if I am waiting isn’t worth the wait? Too often in the wait I get distracted or discouraged or mad and just simply give up.
Not Simeon. He stayed attentive in the midst of unfulfilled promsies. Like Mary, his waiting enlarged him. Active waiting does the same for us. Instead of just bidding our time, active waiting forces us to relinquish our cherished expectations of when and how we think life ought to go. It forges in us a space to receive God on his terms, not ours. It allows hope a secure place to grow.
So when the moment he had been waiting for for so long, unbeknownst to him, had come he didn’t miss it. “Moved by the Spirit he went he went into the temple courts.” (Luke 2:27). “He went.” Characteristically, on an ordinary day in an ordinary way, he responded to the Spirit’s lead and because he did, he didn’t miss that sacred moment.
But it wasn’t what Simeon expected. He wasn’t looking for a Christ child. He was looking for the consolation of Israel. A Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, deliverer. He wasn’t looking for the showing forth of God’s glory wrapped in a blanket. But because Simeon lived with eyes wide open (trained in the waiting period) he recognized God, not how he was expected, but in the way he wanted to be seen. No one told Simeon that day that God was in his midst. He recognized the presence of God in the most unlikely way and most unlikely place because he had developed a reliable pattern of looking.
Christmas proclaims unequivocally that our waiting is not in vain because we wait for a God who comes. Christmas teaches us that those who get up and move to the Spirit’s steps will find God but almost always where we least expect it.
In this season of waiting I want to be open to hope in unexpected places. I don’t want to get stuck in patterns of hurry and impatience that I miss the subtle nuances of the Spirit’s movement. I want to be open to the ways God is coming to me and release any expectations of what that looks like. In sickness. In desperation. In the face of the poor. In the sighs of my children. In the push and shove of obligations and unwelcomed interruptions. I want to be open to slivers of joy in places I am not used to seeing them…and drop to my knees in worship.
We too, like Simeon, can orient our souls to the nuances of the Spirit and experience this same kind of on-going spiritual vitality in our days. Then we won’t spend our days missing what God is doing but become active participants in the Kingdom.
Questions for Reflection:
- You are waiting for something from God. What words would you use to describe this waiting period?
- What might a more active waiting/seeking look like for you?
- What expectations have you subtly placed on God’s coming to you?