There’s all kinds of waiting: grocery queues and traffic jams, the mundane and the monumental. There’s the pregnant pause of anticipation before a bride walks down the aisle or when a loved one is about to draw her last breath. Waiting can cause dis-ease in my life or it can bring grace. “I can wait empty or I can wait full. It all depends on what I do with the time. Those who wait empty get irritated or dissipated. Those who wait full get richer as time goes by. Those who wait empty wait aimlessly. Those who wait full do something that changes them by the time they get what they are waiting for.”*
It had been about 400 years of suffering in the darkness of the times since the last prophet promised the Messiah’s entrance into history. The waiting was filled with the unremitting hopelessness of the human condition. For the Jews, they endured without a word from a prophet. Some waited empty–embittered by persecution and subjection, but there were a few, a remnant, that refused to lose the gift of expectancy, even when all signs pointed the other direction. They waited full with hope, HOPE in God, to reveal himself as the promised Messiah.
Then one dark night in a forgotten town in a forsaken country, the Messiah made his resplendent entrance into the world in the most ordinary way–a birth. Six pounds of new flesh filled the world! The scriptures say, “In the fullness of time…,” The Sovereign LORD knew what needed to be fulfilled before he incarnated himself into our darkness. I also think he came because of those who were waiting full, the moment was according to plan, the right humans were in place. Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wisemen, Simeon and Anna, and then there was the anonymous “they” who were waiting–humanity crippled, sick, and oppressed, even the dead got what they were waiting for. They saw hope revealed because they never lost sight in the truth that God is good. How they waited made all the difference for them and the rest of history.
It’s been said that Advent is a search in the dark. The Liturgy brings us back to this truth every year in order to compel us to live wide-awake, alert, to God with us–Immanuel! The scriptures display how Saints Simeon and Anna laid down the posture of waiting for us in the gospel according to St. Luke:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word;
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation
which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to thy people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phan′u-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
LORD, I desire to take you in my arms as St. Simeon did, but I have to empty my arms to receive you. Empty me of my pride, fear and anger and fill me with your virtues. Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and reverence.
LORD, make me like St. Simeon, righteous and devout, knowing that consolation in my doubts or fears comes in the fullness of time.
LORD, make me like St. Anne, waiting upon you, abiding in your Presence, filling the moments with worship, fasting and prayer. Displaying thanksgiving to my dark world.
LORD, may peace reign in me and through me for my eyes, too, have seen your salvation, Immanuel, God with me, with us, filling our empty world.