Christmas and the Expectant Ones
It’s easy to miss their stories.
The Christmas story holds great drama. There’s an angel who appears to Mary. A virgin conception. A virgin birth. An angel appears to Joseph and tells him to take Mary as his wife. There’s an angel who appears to Zechariah, and the improbable baby boy born to Elizabeth in her old age.
But there’s still more: a silly census that uproots Joseph and his pregnant wife. A manger for a delivery room. Shepherds called from their posts to witness the birth. A choir of angels. And later still, Magi who follow a star to behold the child. A murderous king threatened by this baby.
And in all these things, there’s still more. Their story is quiet. No drama. They’ve just been waiting—a long time.
First, there’s Simeon. He’s old but described as righteous and devout. Yet even those words don’t tell the whole story. The Holy Spirit is upon him. Those are big words. Important words. Keep in mind that 400 years sits between the Old Testament and the New Testament. These are quiet years with no vision, no word from a prophet. But the Holy Spirit is upon Simeon.
And even better, the Holy Spirit has a word for Simeon: He’s going to get to see the Christ child before he dies. The Bible describes him as “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Waiting is such a powerful word. Merriam-Webster defines it as “to stay in place in expectation of.” Simeon is staying. He’s hanging around. He’s expectant. He believes that there’s one coming who will deliver Israel and all of mankind.
Moved by this same Holy Spirit, he’s told to go to the Temple, and there he will find the child Jesus in a fitting act of being set apart—circumcision. While the Scriptures don’t tell us these details, I can only guess there are tears in his eyes as he proclaims,
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
The second story, that of Anna, is not quite so long. The Bible describes her carefully. She’s a prophetess. Like Simeon and the Holy Spirit, this is no small feat. Not many women are described with such a title. She knows the Word of God, and she can teach it and proclaim it. People look to her. She was a daughter, a wife, and now a widow. At 84 years of age, she never leaves the temple—worshipping, fasting, and praying.
How do we know? She’s a woman who is expecting God to show up, to speak, and to move. And in the last sentence describing her, the Bible says simply, “She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Anna is looking forward to—she’s expecting—the redemption of Israel. Not political redemption. But the redemption that only the child can bring. Such is her confidence that she does not stay quiet, as it might have been easy to do; and she goes to these young parents and tells them this prophesy about the baby they hold in their arms.
Simeon. Anna. Expectant ones. Righteous. Devout. The Holy Spirit upon them. Waiting. Yet looking forward. May the same be said of us.