The temperature gauge on our truck shines the word ICE with a bold blue digital glow as I climb in from the cold and put on my seatbelt. Another week’s worth of food loaded into our suburban carriage with heated seats and a broken driver’s side window. God has provided once again. We are well fed and provided for in this season at seminary. My heart is content as we live with less, much less than we ever have before as a family. It is a lean Christmas but I’m thankful for that. Our hearts and minds are put in full dependence on God as we wait, as we work, as we study and prepare for the next season of ministry.
We are in a season of awaiting “further instructions,” if you will. Waiting, anticipating, and living in expectancy of what may soon be. We love maps and have them all over our home including a shower curtain in the kids’ bathroom. I often look at those maps and pause as I walk by. I take a moment to pray, “Lord, where will You send us next?” We wait. And just like how God knew we would one day arrive at this space and time, He also knows where He will guide us next. I wait with a quiet contentment, seeking to enjoy all that God has for us here in these three precious years that are so full and rich with learning, knowledge, friendship, and being poured into, so that we will be ready to be sent out again at the proper time and ready to pour back out. As one pastor’s wife told me, it is a season of being broken down, and being built back up.
In this season of Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas, Christians take time to reflect on the arrival of the long-awaited Redeemer. As Christians on this side of history, we live in an attitude of hope and expectation for our King Jesus, the Son of God, to return and make all things new, to rule and reign in glory and with peace and justice. The Good Shepherd who came two thousand years ago, will return to His flock with comfort and joy.
There are many themes to think on during this time of Advent from the Old Testament prophecies to the birth place of the baby King, to the emotions that his mother Mary must have been feeling and the messages from angels. Oftentimes, I’ve been drawn to those few mysterious verses in the book of Luke that talk about a woman named Anna, who waited with what I assume, was a quiet, faithful contentment.
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until 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 began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
The Gospel of Luke provides us with a glimpse into this one woman’s life, a small vignette of adoration. Besides what we know of her age at this time, her father’s name, her tribe of origin, how long she was married and widowed, and her role as a prophetess, we know that she was dedicated to a life of worship and prayer. Early on in my life, when I first read these verses, I was struck with a sense of mystery and awe. There was something about Anna that drew me in, something about this lifestyle of worship that I so longed to be a part of.
Anna was waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. She was praying and waiting for the chosen Child to be born. In her waiting, she worshiped. It was not a passive waiting but a time of preparation. She waited with hope and anticipation, preparing her heart and trusting in the faithfulness of God to fulfill His promises, all the while continuing in the daily practice of worship, year after year, in expectancy of her Savior. I suspect it was quite the glorious commotion when the Child Jesus was brought in to the temple to be presented to the Lord with a sacrifice, and Simeon announced with great joy,
“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35
Positioned in this time of history, we look back at the Incarnation, Immanuel, God with us. We also, with joy, await the Savior’s second coming. We wait with longing hearts to look upon our King as He comes in glory to make all things new. Will He return in our lifetime? Will we be found, like Anna, faithfully living our days in service and worship to Him? Will Christ be the central focus of our lives? While we await the return of our King, let us remain steadfast in worship and prayer, giving thanks to God for His indescribable gift, and speaking of him to the world.
O source of all good,
What shall I render to you for the gift of gifts,
your own dear Son?
Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.
Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart,
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreate and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me!
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind!
Let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father!
Place me with ox, donkey, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin!
Let me with Simeon clasp the newborn child to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his!
In him you have given me so much that heaven can give no more.