I love this verse… from the early chapters of Luke:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. (2:25)
We hate waiting. For anything. Especially as Americans. “Instant” is everything. The future must be now. Everything at my disposal, in my grasp, at my fingertips… YESTERDAY, please. Microwave dinners, fast food, “on demand” movies and “instant queues”. We can’t stand waiting. We are without patience.
When I was a kid I used to mark time by watching Loony Tunes cartoons. A half-hour program consisted of three ten-minute segments. If I had to wait an hour for something, I knew I just had to watch six ten-minute chunks. An hour seemed like an eternity. To have to WAIT… it absolutely made my skin crawl.
This morning my internet went out. I do most of my work online. This is a problem. The day started out optimistically enough. Getting entangled in the abyss of Comcast’s customer service quickly wrecked my entire morning. MY LIFE WILL NOT WAIT FOR ME, I fretted. Bills, emails, deadlines, projects. It will catch up. Pile on. And then what? Pain. Waiting is out of the question.
But perhaps I am missing something. Luke seems to make the connection between Simeon’s waiting and the presence of the Holy Spirit. “He was WAITING for the consolation of Israel, and the HOLY SPIRIT WAS ON HIM.”
Weird, I think to myself. Because waiting seems like absence. It seems like a painful void. Simeon, and all Israel with him, is WITHOUT the consolation they so desperately longed for… waiting for a future promised but not yet given. Oh the pain of that place. You know it well I’m sure. Waiting for a job, for a relationship to heal, for our souls and minds to heal, for our bodies to heal, for a situation to turn around, for a church to grow, for kids to come home. Waiting… oh the pain of it.
And yet… for Luke… Simeon’s waiting was not (as for us) painful absence. Rather, it was pregnant with presence. Simeon’s waiting was pregnant with the Spirit of the very God whose promises Simeon longed to see fulfilled. Not absence. But presence. Not void. But fullness.
I love that. Waiting is hard… we imagine in the waiting that God is elsewhere. Hence the Psalmist’s cry, “How long O Lord!” But Luke knows what we impatient ones don’t know… that God is very present in the in-between. In the quiet days and hours and minutes and months and years and moments of quiet longing for a future promised but not yet in hand… he is there. Immanuel. God-with-us.
In the waiting.
“We wait in hope for the Lord…”