The waiting was always the hardest part.
I remember as a little girl, my mother would pull out the Christmas decorations after Thanksgiving and excitement would come with them. I would painstakingly arrange snow globes and special holiday figurines in my room, and each year my brother and I would check to see whose turn it was to host the plastic Nativity scene that our aunt had given us to share.
Bringing the Christmas spirit into our surroundings was easy. But waiting for December 25th to arrive was hard.
Even with the dark of each night coming earlier, the days still seemed to stretch long before us. The paper countdown calendar we had gave every evening a number, and only built the already growing sense of anticipation. It was awful and wonderful all at the same time.
Joy in the Longing
As children, we couldn’t quite explain what we were waiting for, but it was more than just material things. The presents that would pile up under the tree were certainly enticing, but it wasn’t just about toys. There was something magical about the wonderful day that was to come. It was a day when our family would spend time together, when the lights and the tastes and the smells would give a festive mood to everything we did. We would experience rest, togetherness, love, and peace. Because we knew what was coming, there was joy in the longing.
The First Christmas
Leading up to that first Christmas, the Israelites had been longing—waiting hundreds of years for the promised Messiah to arrive. But one Israelite practiced an active waiting. He thought about it every day. Luke tells us that a man named Simeon “was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25). Simeon was a man of character and devotion, but those qualities aren’t linked to perfection or conformity to the Law. They are the fruit of a life spent in anticipation.
Simeon was consumed by waiting for a Savior he was certain would come. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he knew that it would happen in his lifetime. On the day that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus into the temple, the Spirit led Simeon to the same place where he could hold Jesus in his arms. He responded the only way he could, with praise:
“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).
Simeon got the one thing he had waited his entire life for. He met the Christ child. He saw and touched the face of God. And that child was a light who would one day bring revelation to all of us.
We Are All Waiting
It seems simplistic to compare our waiting of a few weeks each December to Simeon’s waiting over a lifetime. But the season of Advent can give us a tangible snapshot of the emotions that came with waiting for the Messiah. And we aren’t just remembering the waiting that they lived in back then. We live in the waiting today. They waited for a King to arrive. We wait for the same King to return.
The Holy Spirit told Simeon he would see Christ, and Simeon believed. The Spirit-inspired Word tells us the same, and waiting is our expression of belief.
The waiting is always the hardest part, but with the faith of a child it is wonderful at the same time. We know that one day our faith will become sight. While we wait, we know our eyes will see His salvation, and that makes all the difference. With that difference, there truly is joy in the longing.