Have you ever had to wait a really long time for something?
I have to admit that waiting is not my favorite. Whether we are waiting for test results, for our teenager to come home, or for reconciliation to happen with that friend, waiting holds weight.
Imagine with me how the prophetess Anna felt about waiting. There are only a few sentences that reveal Anna’s connection to the Christ child in Luke 2, but there’s much we can glean from these verses about waiting.
Anna married young but was widowed after seven years of marriage. Her family was from the tribe of Asher, which means “face of God.” After her husband died, Luke tells us Anna never left the temple. Anna waited for decades to see the face of God. She spent her days worshipping, fasting, and praying. Anna’s life is a powerful example of active and hopeful waiting.
As it says in Isaiah 40:31, our strength is renewed when we wait for God. In Hebrew, the word “qavah” means to wait or to hope. The word “qav” comes from the word for cord. When you pull a cord tight, you feel the tension in it. There is both tension and expectation in our waiting.
One of my favorite Christmas carols is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which dates back to the 12th century. This is a song to sing in the tension of our waiting. The first verse says this: “O come, O come, Emmanuel / And ransom captive Israel / That mourns in lonely exile here / Until the Son of God appear.” These words help us imagine what the early Israelites must have felt as they yearned for the Messiah who was promised in Scripture. They were captives, slaves, and exiles waiting for a Savior. The prophet Isaiah talks about Emmanuel, who is “God with us,” paying the ransom only he can pay.
Many anticipated the coming of this Savior. They waited through dark nights and uncertain times. They waited when the future looked bleak, when the enemy drew near, and loved ones were snatched by death. They waited an incredibly long time. But many like Anna, sang and prayed and worshipped and believed. People like Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, the wise men from the east, and a man named Simeon who blessed Jesus in the temple. They were the ones chosen to bear witness to the coming of Jesus, the light and salvation of the world. They saw the “face of God.”
The Christmas season and Advent are built around waiting with hope. We are sitting in the tension of the now and the not yet. We are anticipating the birth of Jesus celebrated on December 25. And we are also looking to the future when Jesus will return again. This is our living hope and God’s embodied love for each of us.
My heart soars every time I sing the chorus to that familiar carol, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel. Shall come to thee, O Israel.” These words serve as a reminder like the brightest star in the night sky that our Savior is coming. Our strength rises as we wait.
What are you waiting for today?
Do you think it’s possible to rejoice while we wait?
What might that look like for you?
*This is the fourth and final part of the Rejoice Advent devotional. Listen & get a PDF copy of the full devotional here.