Psalm 96:7-7, 8-9, 10
WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?
Talk about waiting! In today’s gospel we have Anna, eighty-four
years a widow, after a seven-year marriage. When I do the math, factoring
in marriage at the early age of fourteen, I come up with a 105-year-old woman.
Like old man Simeon, who had been waiting for the “consolation of Israel”
and recognized what he had been waiting for in the baby Jesus, this woman
had also been waiting, in prayer and fasting in the temple precincts, for
“the redemption of Jerusalem.” The strange thing is that most Jerusalemites
in those days would have understood those phrases to refer to a military
leader—like King David or Judas Maccabee—who would lead them in a revolution
against the hated Romans. What did Anna and Simeon think the baby would grow
up to be? Simeon, earlier in this episode, used Isaiah’s language to call
the child “a light for the nations,” thereby associating him with that prophet’s
figure of the suffering Servant of Yahweh. However they understood Jesus
at that moment, Luke uses this scene (traditionally called the Presentation
of Jesus in the Temple) to celebrate Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel’s
deepest longings. A perfect reading for the fifth day after Christmas!
The selection from the first letter of John is also about satisfying longings.
And look how the language fits the seasons of human life. What do little
kids want? Well, of course the list is as endless as hopes for Christmas
presents, but one thing for sure that little kids want is to be loved and
securely connected to a parent. And that’s what John says they have in Christ:
“Little ones . . . through his name your sins have been forgiven. . . . You
have known the Father.”
And what do youth—well, young men, anyway (John seems to be writing to guys
here)—want? Again, gazillion things, of course. But one consistent thing
most young men want is to be strong and able to take on a tough challenge.
So John writes: “Young men, . . . you have conquered the evil one. . . .
You are strong.”
And what do elders, especially male elders, want? Judging from what old guys
tend to talk about in bars, one of the things they like is to be able to
brag about great ones they have known. And John touches that base when he
writes, “I address you, fathers, for you have know him who was from the beginning.”
The point of all this is that the Christmas blessing, the divine presence
among us in Jesus of Nazareth, meets all our desires, whatever our gender
(Simeon, Anna) and whatever our stage in life. How we let God fulfill our
desires is exactly what we might be praying about these days after Christ.
If we find that our deepest desires are distracted by what John calls “the
world with its seductions,” the blessing of Christmas can free us from these
passing things, if like Simeon and Anna we are looking in the right places.