Fourth Sunday of Advent
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2: 36-38
These last five years, my prayers have often included these words over and over again: “How long O Lord? How long will you keep us childless?”
There’s not a lot of peace in this. Asking for the same thing over and over. Being stuck.
I’ve heard from a lot of couples dealing with infertility the feeling of being “stuck” in an endless process without a lot of hope, and it is frustrating beyond words. It is so easy to feel perpetually impatient.
Our culture helps us learn this kind of impatience. If we want something, we are told to make it happen now. If we don’t get what we want, we are told to try harder or take another route. If we want babies and can’t have them, there’s a specialized field of medicine for this. There are adoption agencies ready to receive our applications.
But sometimes even when we do all the right things and open ourselves up to all the kinds of possibilities that the Spirit could move forth in our life, we still find ourselves with empty hands waiting.
On my own waiting journey, Simeon and Anna have become two of my waiting heroes. Night and day both of these seniors devoted themselves to prayer and waiting for Jesus to arrive in the temple. They waited and waited. And they waited some more.
Scripture tells us that Anna was 84, a widow for many years. Her entire purpose after her husband died was to be on this waiting journey—to be that prophetic voice that spoke the truth about baby Jesus who was yet to be born.
And then one day Jesus arrived at the temple with Mary and Joseph. Anna knew immediately who Jesus was and blessed him in a way only someone who had been waiting for years and years could offer. She spoke truth. Jesus was God’s Son. Jesus would be the one who redeemed Israel. Jesus was God with us.
Though a vocation of waiting is not something I would have chosen (and I wonder if Simeon and Anna would have chosen it either?), I have come to realize that the longer I wait, the more peace-filled my waiting becomes.
Of course there are days when I still want to throw complaints up to the heavens of “Why me?” But more often now, contentment lives in me where dread used to be. This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on my calling to motherhood either. I know I will be a mother to some little person sometime in my future.
But in the meantime my path is filled with meaningful work, and I wait. I find peace along the way. Who I am right now is ok. What I am doing right now is good. When children come into our home, we’ll be ready. Where the next step of our journey will take us, I do not know. How our waiting will come to an end, only God knows.
Deep peace. Deep peace of Christ to you as you wait on this day.
Let us pray:
God who waits with us, help us have the strength this day to wait with you. Help us to wait with the big unknown questions of our lives. Help us to wait when we see others so easily having what we want. Help us to find your gift of peace along our own journey of waiting. Amen.
Elizabeth Hagan is an ordained minister in the Baptist tradition, a freelance writer and a social media consultant who divides her time between Arlington, VA and Oklahoma City, OK with her husband Kevin. She blogs regularly at “Preacher on the Plaza” (https://elizabethhagan.com). This Advent Elizabeth is hoping for the gift of being present in the moment.