Forget the groundhog. Today is Candlemas, a celebration in Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches. Traditions include blessing and lighting candles, making crepes and taking down any remaining Christmas decorations (see, you’re not late, after all!).
But Candlemas also marks a biblical observance–the 40 days after Jesus was born and presented in the temple, according to regulations set forth in Leviticus 12. This is the backdrop for the events of Luke 2:25-38, in which Mary and Joseph enter the temple with the Child and a sacrifice of two young pigeons. This is also where we find the story of Simeon and Anna, two devout people who were waiting for the “consolation of Israel”–the promised Messiah that Israel had been anticipating for ages.
What can we learn from this ancient story of waiting and hoping?
Simeon and Anna expected the Savior to arrive. They anticipated. They eagerly waited. Waiting is not a popular American pastime. We hate to wait. We want it now or, better yet, yesterday. There are no less than seven words for “waiting” in the New Testament and all of them carry a dynamic quality–a bold, confident, edge-of-your-seat kind of waiting that expects God to show up. Simeon and Anna waited for a long time, but they kept praying, expecting, watching, hoping. Their waiting was finally rewarded.
Over 20 years ago, I went to a prayer meeting expecting God to heal my back. After some men prayed for me, I felt an urge to call my estranged father. I resisted, but finally gave in. My dad and I spent 30 minutes talking to each other, finally reconciling over a telephone wire. Three hours later, he died of a heart attack. A week after the funeral, I went under the knife to repair a herniated disk.
When we expect miracles, we get miracles–although sometimes not the way we had imagined them.
Luke 2:28 says that Simeon “took” the baby Jesus into his arms. The English translation does not do justice to this rich New Testament word, which means to receive, readily accept, welcome or embrace. It was sometimes used to describe a host opening his door wide to guests.
I recently heard a preacher say that all of us are not children of God. I wondered if this grated more than a few people in the congregation. We’ve been told that “we are all God’s children” since Sunday school days. But the preacher is correct. God loves all and He calls all into His family, but not all come. God has signed your adoption papers, but you are not a son or daughter until you say “yes.” You are on the porch of God’s house, but until you step through the door, you are a guest of grace and not a full heir.
“But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children–children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God” (John 1:12-13 NET Bible).
After Anna beheld Jesus, she gave thanks and began speaking about the Christ Child to everyone in town. Her life became an exclamation point for God.
“Exclaim” means to speak loudly or passionately, affirm, declare or proclaim. Some people aren’t bold talkers; they’re just not wired that way. The good news is, there are many ways to witness to Christ. Some are upfront, others are more subtle, but all are needed. In a church where I served long ago, there was a soft-spoken man who let his deeds speak for him. But he wasn’t ashamed of Christ. One day, when he came to service the air conditioning unit at the parsonage, we started talking about an upcoming stewardship campaign. A lot of churchfolk would rather talk about tire rotation or gall bladder surgery than giving, but not this man. He lit up and told me how much he loved to tithe to the Lord’s work. He actually inspired me to step up my giving. For those who love God, their proclamation is always ready to share.
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today and will duck back in his burrow for six more weeks of winter. Don’t you be like an ol’ groundhog. Come out into God’s light to expect, embrace and exclaim–today and every day.