(Luke 2:22-40, NIV)
Jesus Presented in the Temple
“WAIT” – to remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something expected happens; to look forward to eagerly. Mary and Joseph had waited expectantly for the birth of their first child. The circumstances were not ideal, but the baby was born healthy and strong. Then Mary and Joseph waited the appropriate length of time before bringing Jesus to be “presented” in the Temple. This was the time for Mary to be ritually purified after giving birth. It was also the time for first-born male children to be consecrated to God’s service. Both of these rituals are proscribed in Levitical Law. Orthodox tradition places these events forty days after Jesus’ birth…and so they waited.
Simeon was a righteous and devout Jewish man who came to the Temple regularly to pray. He had waited his entire life for the promised Messiah and had received assurance through the Holy Spirit that the Messiah would come in his lifetime. Imagine – what a reason to wait upon the Lord! His waiting paid off as Simeon was able to hold the baby Jesus in his arms and know that he was The Christ. His waiting now over, Simeon reveals the truth laid on his heart and releases himself to God, confident he could now rest in peace.
Anna, a well-known prophet of the day, spent all her time praying at the Temple. She was an elderly widow and she waited to hear from God in order to share God’s words with others. She never left the Temple Mount; she fasted; she prayed; and she waited. On this day, Anna knew that her waiting was rewarded by the very presence of the Lord’s Messiah. She gave thanks to God and began to speak about the child and how he fulfilled the promises that all of Israel had been waiting for.
This story is one of the few to give us a glimpse into the early life of the child Jesus. After fulfilling this important ritual from The Law, the Holy Family returns home to Nazareth: “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was on him.” Sounds like a relatively normal, uneventful life. Maybe that is why so little was written about his childhood. So, from this story we begin a new period of waiting:
- Waiting for Jesus to grow up;
- Waiting to see what happens next;
- Waiting for this Messiah to do something;
- Waiting to know what any of this has to do with me.
“Waiting” is not our “strong suit”…Our culture has led us to believe that we deserve everything we want right now AND that it is possible for us to have everything right now. We should not wait for anything. Get what you want now and pay for it later – with interest! Instant gratification is our preferred state of being. Why should we have to wait?
The series we begin today is called: “Rest in Peace”. It is certainly not about death or life after death. I selected this title for very specific reasons. Let’s look at the two key words here. REST: relief or freedom, especially from anything that worries, troubles, or disturbs. PEACE: freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, or obsession, etc.; tranquility; serenity. This first week we encounter the idea of “waiting”…
We have seen how waiting was part of Jesus’ story from the very beginning. From Mary and Joseph to Simeon to Anna and finally, to us – people have been waiting for a long time. Most of us would probably prefer not to wait. We would like to enjoy freedom from our worries, troubles, anxieties, and distractions sooner rather than later. We seek tranquility and serenity, and we want it NOW. Waiting is not conducive to a serene attitude. Our “right now” attitude and our custom of rushing from this thing to that thing has started to bleed into our spiritual life as well. But, while most of us are in a hurry, it seems that God is usually not in a hurry. The Bible tells us that God is slow at going about things. You see – God always has a plan and a purpose. The problem we have with waiting is that we don’t get to know all the details of the plan. From our perspective, we have everything figured out and God just needs to get in step.
Waiting is one of those tools that God uses to develop us. Because God rarely does things in our timeframe, we can get discouraged and anxious and begin to feel abandoned by God. It’s hard for us to rest in peace, to be free from worry and anxiety, when it looks like things are not going our way. Where is the “peace” in that God is ignoring us, or worse, God is mad at us? Let’s think about some of the reasons why God might want us to wait.
Waiting reveals our true motives: Waiting around for something to happen can bring out the best and the worst in people. People with the wrong motives won’t wait long. They don’t want to wait because they’re not really interested in a long-term commitment; they want the short-term gain. Most of us have good intentions, but a lot of what we want to accomplish is an attempt to make a name for ourselves or for our own egos. It hurts to say it, but it is often true.
Waiting builds patience in our lives: Patience in waiting for small things leads to having patience while waiting for bigger things. We need to have our perspective adjusted to God’s. We may think that the big important things in life have to do with finances and success. God places more importance on influencing and transforming lives; that is something that requires lots of patience.
Waiting builds anticipation: Christmas is just over and we still remember the excitement, particularly among our children. Why is it that kids get so excited at Christmas? Because waiting produced anticipation and that anticipation builds the excitement. We tend to appreciate things more that we have to wait for longer. The possessions that we treasure – the toys, the electronics, and the gadgets – lose their luster fairly quickly unless we have had to save for them and wait for them. How many of us can relate to the difference in the way a teenager treats an automobile they were given vs. one they worked hard to buy for themselves? People tend to value the things they have to wait for.
Waiting transforms our character: Waiting has a way of rubbing off some of the rough edges of our character. Think about the story of Moses. Here is a grand story of God doing great miracles and using one man to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and on to the Promised Land. When we tell this story in church, we seldom talk much about the fact that Moses had to wait in the desert for forty years before God came to use him. At the beginning of the story, Moses is an arrogant young man; he was impatient and rash. In anger he killed a man and hid the body. When his crime was discovered, he ran for his life and hid in the desert. During this waiting season, Moses’ character was transformed. When God gave him a second chance, he was able to do it God’s way and in God’s time. The Israelites were saved and Moses became a great leader. Waiting transformed him and it does the same for you and me. The great men and women of the Bible have something in common: they all developed an intimate relationship with God. These relationships did not always come easy and most of these people spent some time waiting on God. The good news is that they did not have to wait alone; God was always there, waiting with them. God never seems to be in a hurry and that means that we need to learn to be patient and learn how to wait.
Waiting is not a passive process…It should be ACTIVE. Waiting should be a process of growing, planning, learning, and preparing for whatever God will do. Now that Jesus is here, we can count on him to wait with us. He is calling us to rest in the peace that he offers. He knows that is not always an easy thing for us to do. So he challenges us to take a deep breath and wait; wait patiently for the Holy Spirit; wait fearlessly for God’s plan. Waiting is the first step in being able to rest in God’s Peace.
Psalm 39:7 (ESV) “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
(Power Point) 01-WAITING