Luke 2: 36-40.
I find myself really liking and admiring this Anna, who has spent this unbelievably long time waiting in the Temple. Increasingly, in day-to-day things, people are less and less accustomed to waiting. Email replies are expected almost instantly and whereas in the old days, if I ordered a book whether from the library or a bookshop, I settled down to wait usually for weeks before I even began to wonder when it was coming. Now Amazon pops it through my letter box in 24 hours. And lots and lots of things in life are now like that.
But the Bible is full of waiting. Like we said last week, people waiting for the fulfilment of cherished hopes for the gift of a child (Isaac, Samuel, John the Baptist), generations of waiting in Egypt (430 years), forty years in the wilderness, fifty years in Babylon. God’s people know all about waiting.
But Biblical waiting is full of confidence and trust. Psalm 27: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord.” And this theme is taken up again and again. And the reason, I think, is because God’s people know they are the inheritors of a great, eternal, unbreakable promise. This is Covenant stuff. The Annas and the Simeons of this world know that in their waiting they don’t stand alone. They’re caught up in something so much bigger than themselves, such a huge vision, and they surrender themselves to the flow of this great story of which they’re a part.
So that when the moment comes, you don’t find them saying: “Well, it’s about time. What took you so long?!” Instead, they acknowledge and they recognise that this is the moment for which everything they know, everything they’ve ever done, everything that’s ever happened has been preparing them. This is why Simeon can say: “Lord, now lettest thou they servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” And Anna breaks into praise and probably even dancing.
At a time when we’re nearly all constrained in what we can do, when maybe things can’t be as instant, as quick as we want them to be, when we long for an end to this particular story, but can’t quite see it yet, I wonder if we can practise that sense of surrender to a story of God’s faithfulness that’s bigger than this, and at the same time knowing that all the way through what’s going on God is at work? God is not absent while we wait. We won’t be asked to wait as long as Anna. But the psalm I quoted, she would have known by heart: Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord. Amen.