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Hope and Anticipation

November 29, 2020 – Advent Week 1

Hope and anticipation lead up to Jesus’ birth…

It’s finally time to get out the Christmas decorations, right? The 2020 coronavirus pandemic is creating breaks in the way we normally celebrate traditional holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It’s time to talk about hope, though.

Most people never say “Yeah! I get to wait longer! That’s awesome!” Most people don’t like waiting. In fact, we hate to wait. For example, sitting in a waiting room for an appointment or test results. But for the past few years, waiting might have stopped existing anymore, especially with our devices and constant stimulus and interaction from social media and networking.

We almost never wait anymore. Our attention is always on something else. Except, maybe at amusement parks in line for a ride, waiting never happens anymore.

But Advent is about waiting. It’s about the hope and anticipation people had as they waited for the prophecies and promises of Jesus to come true. The waiting lasted for centuries.

In the Gospel of Luke 2:21, after Jesus is born, the Bible suddenly introduces Simeon.

When the eighth day arrived, the day of circumcision, the child was named Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived.

Then when the days stipulated by Moses for purification were complete, they took him up to Jerusalem to offer him to God as commanded in God’s Law:

“Every male who opens the womb shall be a holy offering to God,” and also to sacrifice the “pair of doves or two young pigeons” prescribed in God’s Law.

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.”

Luke 2:21-32 (The Message)

This brings up a lot of questions: When did God tell Simeon about this? Did he hear about it from the Magi? Was it when Simeon was young? How long did he have to hold onto that truth?

If God came to you and made that kind of promise to you, then every single day takes on a different meaning, and a different level of excitement. If God tells you “you aren’t going to die until you see the Messiah,” you’d get up each morning with hope that maybe today you’d get to see the Messiah.

Hope can grow old. Did Simeon wait and wait for along time, counting days and beginning to doubt and question God?

Simeon knew about the prophet Isaiah’s message:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 (NRSV)

So Simeon was faithful and stayed at the temple to hope, and wait.

For Advent, the church created a symbolic way of leading up to Christmas; a wreath with candles. Today’s candle represents hope and anticipation.

Simeon is the perfect representation for the first week of Advent. There’s so many kinds of waiting: from the dread of a visit to the doctor’s office, to the excitement about an amusement park ride, to the relief of knowing it’s almost over. Advent is about all these feelings, as we hope and wait for the future.

So what’s the answer? Simeon gives us the answer: Hold on to hope. Even through things that test your patience, hold on to your hope and anticipation. You really haven’t defeated somebody until you’ve taken away their hope. But nothing can take away our hope in Jesus’ promise.

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