Title: WAITING, HOPING, LONGING
Scripture #1: Romans 8:25–27
But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Scripture #2: Luke 2:25–26
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Poetry & Poet:
by John Frederick Nims
We who are nothingness can never be filled:
Never by orchards on the blowing sea,
Nor the rich foam of wheat all summer sunned.
Our hollow is deeper far than treasure can fill:
Helmets of gold swim ringing in the wells
Of our desire as thimbles in the sea.
Love cannot fill us either: children’s love,
Nor the white care of mothers, nor the sweet
Concern of sister nor the effort of friends;
No dream-caress nor actual: the mixed breath,
Lips that fumble in dark and dizzily cling
Till all nerves tighten to the key of love.
The feasted man turns empty eyes about;
The king builds higher on a crumbling base,
His human mouth a weapon; his brain, maps.
The lover awakes in horror: he gropes out
For the known form, and even enfolding, fears
A bed by war or failing blood undone.
For we who are nothingness can nothing hold.
Only solution: come to us, conceiver,
You who are all things, held and holder, come to us,
Come like an army marching the long day
And the next day and week and all that year;
Come like an ocean thundering to the moon,
Drowning the sunken reef, mounting the shore.
Come, infinite answer to our infinite want.
Her ancient crater only the sea can fill.
WAITING, HOPING, LONGING
We stand in the dark—but we are facing the dawn in the East. We can see it coming in the sky, as our picture shows. We are waiting. We are “wait-ers.” We need an “infinite answer to our infinite want.”
As we wait, we are filled with longing, with a need for consolation, like Simeon.
How long, oh Lord? How long?
As we wait, we run out of prayer.
And we find, to our astonishment, that the Holy Spirit has been interceding for us all along—and our prayers of longing become enlivened as we join in the prayers of the Holy Spirit.
He is praying for you right now.
Shocking. Mind-blowing. God Almighty, the Ancient of Days, the “Watcher of Mankind,” as Job calls Him, stoops to intercede for you and me. The Trinity talks amongst Himself on our behalf.
Such a mystery leaves us without words as well. But not without hope.
We will not see Jesus until we die, and so we hope in faith for that day, when we will go Home.
“Here, There, or in the air,” we Moody students used to say to each other as we parted in the 70s, “See you again!” We thought we were so cool. And yet, we meant it, too.
The older I get, the more I long to see Jesus.
For Simeon, it was different…rather than the next big event being death, the next big event was seeing the Messiah. His trajectory was: See the Messiah –> Die –> See the Messiah!
We have his prayer after he had seen and held (!) the baby Jesus: “I’m ready to come Home now, Father, for with these eyes, I have seen the Messiah, the Hope of Israel. I am an eyewitness to the Glory. There’s nothing left for me here, now. I am replete.”
Mary and Joseph recognized a trustworthy soul, and they handed over their precious son to this old stranger. Mary stayed close by, though, close enough for intimate conversation. And holding his Messiah in his wrinkled arms, Simeon prayed and prophesied.
Looking down, he sees his Creator, his Redeemer. And soon, Simeon will see Jesus again—in Eternity, once he dies, falling asleep here and waking in Heaven. He will meet this Savior again, not as a baby, but as a conquering King. And Israel will be consoled, even as Simeon is now.
Think of that meeting and sharing in Heaven: these two Hebrew men who have known both birth and death…Jesus and Simeon.
Simeon sees Jesus and is satisfied. He has waited all his life, day after day, in growing faith in the God Who keeps His promises to console His people, to come to them and make His home with them. The longer he waited, the stronger his faith: “I won’t die until I see my Redeemer.”
It is the Holy Spirit who gave Simeon the patience to wait. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the patience to suffer long in this life with faith, to be patient and to hope in our God and His promises. Long-suffering, patience, is one fruit that the Holy Spirit develops in us over time. In practice, this looks like perseverance in seemingly unanswered prayer, with watchful expectation—and even suffering with hope.
We don’t give up on opening our hearts to God; indeed, where else would we go? There is no one else who will answer and console us. Like Simeon, we want Him!
Waiting on God demonstrates faith. Waiting instills hope. Waiting for God is predicated on the reality that the invisible spiritual world coexists constantly with the visible physical world, and that God is present and doing something. This faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was “upon” Simeon, indeed: our Romans passage tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for all the saints as we wait on God.
Stop and sit with this for a minute—for what are you waiting? About what are you praying? God Himself, the Holy Spirit, prays with you and for you, about that very thing! And so, even as we wait, we hope. We know that there is far more to life than what we see and that our Heavenly Father is present and is attending to us and our concerns. And so we wait with hope.
Psychologically speaking, one of the indicators of maturity is the ability to delay gratification—to wait patiently with desire, yet to wait in hope. It takes maturity to be able to tolerate the tension of unfulfilled longing. Simeon embodies this maturity. He has been faithful in the dark. And now, the Light of the World has come, and Simeon recognizes him.
Our Father God has not left us alone. He has put His Spirit in our hearts, we are signed and sealed and waiting for our final deliverance from these mortal bodies into our heavenly bodies. We are waiting to go Home and to see our living Savior face to face, to know as we are known. And so we remind each other of this and tell the good news: “The night of waiting is almost over, dawn is coming in the East, hold on a little longer, King Jesus is coming soon for us. He came once, He will come again.”
He will come for you. He has promised.
Dr. Betsy Barber
Associate Director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation
Associate Professor of Spiritual Formation and Psychology
Talbot School of Theology
Without forgiveness, there's no future. Desmond Tutu