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12.20.20 When the Wait is Over Isaiah 25.6-9, Luke 2.22-40 Sermon Summary

by on December 22, 2020

Waiting is a universal human experience. We all are waiting for something. And we all are waiting for the same things. We are waiting for the COVID impact to disappear with the masks, limited gatherings, and travel restrictions. We’re waiting for the inauguration to finally end the election. And we are waiting for Santa.

Some things are easier to wait for than others. Kickoff is easy to wait for when you’re tailgating. But some things are harder to wait for, like the birth of a child. But we all are waiting for something.

This is one reason the prophet Isaiah makes such interesting reading. It was written by a number of authors and covers about 200 years. There are passages of warning, of judgment, of comfort, and of promise.

Here is a passage of promise and comfort to a nation threatened by war, to a people in exile from homeland, and to those who are waiting to see how it all turns out. Isaiah’s audience is  waiting for the hardest thing to wait for: Justice.

On one hand Isaiah is encouraging faithfulness among those who wait. On the other hand Isaiah is writing about God. The shroud of death will be removed. God wipes every tearful eye dry. The people’s disgrace will be taken away.

But Isaiah’s “big picture” point is that waiting reveals God. God is known by God’s actions. Actions take time to occur. So God is revealed through time. And over time, we have to wait.

Today we jump ahead to Jesus’ presentation at the Temple. Mary and Joseph had been waiting. Luke begins the account with, “When the time came . . .” It is probably about forty days after the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph had been practicing their ritual.

Ritual is important because it helps us to wait. It marks time. And it helps us to remember God’s actions in the past. God acts, and humanity responds with ritual.

So eight days after his birth Jesus is circumcised and named. And now Mary has come for the purification ritual and to offer a sacrifice. God is revealed through time and ritual.

Then Luke introduces us to Simeon and Anna, two more people who are waiting. And they teach us more about what it means to wait faithfully. Simeon, we’re told, is, “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” He is, “righteous and devout,” which means he practices ritual. But more, “the Spirit was upon him,” and he was, “moved by the Spirit to enter Temple courts.”

Simeon is a Spirit-led person. He’s not just waiting around. He’s not just waiting for something. He is waiting with spiritual attention. Simeon may just be an ordinary guy who is also Spirit-led. But Anna is something different.

Anna is basically like what we would understand as a nun. She lived at the Temple in continual worship, prayer, and fasting. But Luke hides clues about Anna in the details we’re also told. She is the daughter of Penuel, which means “face of God.” This suggests that she has intimate and personal knowledge of God.

She is from the tribe of Asher which was one of the “ten lost tribes” when Assyria defeated the Northern Kingdom. And she is eighty-four, which is seven (the number of perfection or wholeness in the Bible) times twelve (the number of the original tribes of Israel). Eighty-four is the complete number of tribes.

What Luke is telling us through Anna is that, “In Jesus God is redeeming the lost and restoring God’s people.” So Luke writes, “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Finally, we can return to Mary and Joseph. They have been waiting to go home. That’s another one of the hard thing to wait for. But look what happened? As they waited, as they performed ritual, God was revealed to them. God was revealed through the Shepherds who shared on the night of Jesus’ birth, through Simeon who spoke of the history of God’s people, and through Anna who gave thanks to God.

God was revealed as Mary and Joseph performed ritual, followed the Spirit, and remembered God’s promises. And this is true for us as well. Before the shroud of death can be lifted, before the tears are wiped away, before we find ourselves home again, we sometimes have to wait. And in the waiting God will be revealed. Amen.

One Comment
  1. Susan W Hartley permalink

    Your message helps us see the big picture surrounding all the people Luke mentions, especially for me Simeon and Anna representing those who wait, those who have been lost but not forgotten by God, those who practice the ritual of remembering Gods presence in the past and in the present. Thus ritual is not empty, but full! Our rituals in church, in our prayer, in our actions, in all of our lives matter. Thanks be to God. Thanks Dr. Tom. for creating and leading new rituals for us in this covid waiting, and re-membering traditional rituals of community.

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