What and When

"And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking 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. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms and blessed God..." Luke 2:25-28

Dana was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2008. The adventure, as she likes to call it, has led us to many waiting rooms during 2008 and 2009. The thousands of miles we travelled on these road trips have taken their toll in more ways than one. There have been biopsies, blood work, mammograms, imaging centers, oncologist appointments, six months of chemo treatments, loss of hair, a year of herceptin treatments, two major surgeries, followup exams, and checkups hosted by a wide variety of waiting rooms. Bonding with courageoues people was the one common denominator of all the rooms we visited. There is a band of brothers and sisters that is forged from fighting a relentless war against a common enemy.

I know God's waiting room is the safest place to be, but still, it has grown wearisome. It is alot like an adult "time out." Remember when your child needed an attitude adjustment? You didn't know whether to ground them or pound them, so you put them in time out. My kids hated it. Now I know why.

I wish I could tell you that I entered every waiting room experience with a joyous expectation of answered prayer. There have been many times, I have been overwhelmed by the sheer monotony of waiting. Yes, I still believe God's waiting room is the safest place to be, but I must admit that I have gotten tired of the magazines.

Knowing "what" to pray for, her healing, has not been hard. The rock in my shoe and the bone in my throat has been caused by waiting for "when" she is healed. "When" and "what" are where Heaven and earth meet. Persistent prayer has prepared my heart to receive God's answer. I have learned it arrives in my heart, before He places it in my hands. The Holy Spirit guides me to a place where I can stand on the promise of God, and lift up Jesus...not the answer. There was a popular Christian song in the late 80's, "When Answers Aren't Enough, There is Jesus." The heart and the hands are always in conflict with the "what" and the "when" until I come to the place where Jesus is all I need. Still waiting, and still praying. Still heart. No lie.

Never underestimate the capacity of a commercialized Christmas to swallow a camel and gag on the truth. Every year churches and communities celebrate this season with all kinds of symbols, both sacred and secular. One of the best kept secrets in the Christmas story is Simeon. This time of the year, more is made about nameless shepherds, and wandering wise men than the man that Luke introduces to us as Simeon. His name had a rich heritage for answered prayer in Hebrew culture. It was the name Leah, wife of Jacob, gave to her son after crying out to God for His favor. She knew that Jacob loved Rachel more than her, and she called out to God to hear her prayer for a child. The name, Simeon, means "hear, or heard." The name she selected was Leah's grateful response to God for hearing her and sending a son to be a comfort to her in the middle of her heartbreak and rejection.

Similarly, Simeon had cried out to God for His favor. He prayed that God would allow him to see the Messiah, The Christ, before he died. He had received word from the Holy Spirit that his prayer had been answered. There is no indication in Luke's account of how long he had been waiting for the answer to be revealed, but he was counting on the reliability of the Spirit's promise.

Simeon lived a life of holy expectancy. He is described as, "'righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him." Simeon had a confidence and a hope that kept him ever ready to receive in his hands, the answer God had already given him in his heart. He continued to show up for work every day, devoted to doing what God had called him to do. His waiting resulted in righteousness, not resentment. The Holy Spirit's hand empowered him to trust in God, placing his faith in Him, believing that His delay did not mean God's desertion.

It is one thing to wait on God. It is quite another to wait with the right heart attitude. When Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple with the Child, Simeon was ready with open arms because his heart had never been closed off to God. This passage is a tremendous encouragement to people to pray with persistence. This kind of prayer is not a soul-wrenching, ear splitting whine that grinds a person's joy to dust. This is a consistent companionship that keeps the heart warm in the presence of God, and lifts the eyes of the prayer warrior to see the victory above the dust of the battle.

Simeon knew his prayer had been answered, by the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. He no longer agonized in prayer over the "what." He spent his life focused on making sure he was ready for the "when." "Simeon was faithful to carry out his calling, under the influence of the Spirit of God. God was faithful to deliver His promise to a waiting heart, prepared to appropriate the Gift of His Son. God had arranged a joyous junction between the obedience of the parents and the acceptance of Simeon. Luke gives us the coordinates of the crossroads between "when" and "what." "And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus..."

Simeon's initial response to the Child was to embrace Him. His second response was to praise God. Luke says a great deal with the words, "...he took Him into his arms and blessed God." Simeon's capacity to see "what" God was up to "when" God was doing it, was based on the preparation of his heart by the Holy Spirit. The work of the Spirit, prior to Pentecost, was often exhibited by His Presence coming upon a specific person, for a specific period of time, to perform a specific task. Simeon's prolonged possession of the Holy Spirit's Presence was a foretaste of what Jesus was to promise to His followers.

Jesus promised His followers, before His death, "It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him to you...But when He comes, He will guide you into all the truth...He will glorify Me." (John 16:1-14)

Before he had tinsel, and trees to light his way, Simeon was guided by the true Spirit of Christmas. The Spirit will always glorify Jesus. Any spirit that tries to counterfeit the true worth of the Christmas story by lifting up the season, more than the Savior, is a false spirit. This Christmas make sure you have your heart ready to receive The Greatest Gift of All, Jesus. What are we waiting for? Lift Jesus up! If not Him, who? If not now, when?