I never cease to be amazed at God's way of weaving together the different threads of my Bible studies, ministry preparation, Bible reading, devotionals, and even my pastor's sermons. It's as though He has a kingdom calendar and determines that these different threads will coalesce into something logical on a day that makes perfect sense. Today was one of those amazing days.Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon who was righteous and devout, looking for the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So Simeon, directed by the Spirit, came into the temple courts, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary according to the law, Simeon took him in his arms and blessed God, saying, “Now, according to your word, Sovereign Lord, permit your servant to depart in peace.For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: a light, for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” So the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “Listen carefully: This child is destined to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be rejected.Indeed, as a result of him the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul as well!”
There was also a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, having been married to her husband for seven years until his death. She had lived as a widow since then for eighty-four years. She never left the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment, she came up to them and began to give thanks to God and to speak about the child to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:25-37)
It's the first Sunday of Advent. I've been eager for this season of focus and anticipation. I've grown to love the practice of being intentional about keeping Jesus at the forefront through a daily Advent calendar Scripture reading and the symbolic candles. This year God led me to add a reading plan from our local Christian radio station and a devotional/reading plan from YouVersion. In what I thought was an unrelated note, I started a Bible study 3 days ago on the fruit of the Spirit. Today, as I worked through the devotional, these threads all came together for me around the focus of today's symbolic candle, hope.
The first week of Advent emphasizes Waiting. Advent remembers the waiting on the Messiah's first coming and reminds us to be ready and waiting for His second coming. In the years leading up to the first coming, two precious individuals waited on the Messiah. Simeon and Anna remind me of two dear saints in the Lord from my own family, my Pawpaw and my mother-in-law Jeanne. Both are with the Lord now, but if I can think of two people who reflect the intimacy with God we see in Simeon and Anna, it would be those two.
Think about it. What intimacy with God must have preceded Simeon's proclamation that Jesus was God's salvation, a light for the Gentiles and the glory of Israel? Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit was upon him and actually directed him to go into the temple at the moment that he did. I don't know what Simeon was like, but I am so overly analytical that I often talk myself out of times the Holy Spirit might redirect my steps. "Is this a distraction or a divine appointment?" is a question I often ask myself. I think it's a legitimate question, and I don't want to overspiritualize Simeon by assuming he was so saintly that he never wondered such things. What I do see is a man who had walked with the Lord long enough to go in the direction of the Spirit - and as He always does, the Spirit led Him right to Jesus' feet.
And what about Anna? What depth of relationship must this widow have had to become one of the earliest witnesses to the first coming? I see in Anna a woman who poured every bit of her loneliness into worship - and was rewarded beyond measure when the Messiah was born.
The first step to experiencing Jesus more is being in His presence. I must pursue Him intently, giving up what needs to be laid down and taking up only what is permeated with His presence. I may not always feel incredibly spiritual. Sometimes, the waiting on fruitfulness might seem endless. But it will never be pointless. Like Simeon and Anna, one day all the threads of hope will come together.
This first day of Advent, may you find your hope in Him, even when you don't know how long the waiting will last. The Holy Spirit will reveal Him to you. That's His job - to point to Jesus.