Once, an elderly woman in frail health went to see her doctor. In an effort to lift her spirits, the doctor asked her “What are you looking forward to?” She paused and answered, “Well, I hope I have the strength to live just a few more months, so that I can celebrate the birth of my first grand-child.” Sure enough, the day came, and she was able to hold her little grandson in her arms. She was overjoyed.
A few months later, she went back to her doctor. This time, he asked her about her new goal, now that her old one had been reached. The doctor wanted to make sure she had something to look forward to, something to “keep her going”.
Again, she paused for a moment. “Well”, she said, “my son did just buy me a new refrigerator with a 10 year warranty.”
We are all looking forward to something. Maybe a high school or college acceptance letter. Maybe a job transfer ahead in 2014. Maybe a son or daughter safely coming home from Afghanistan. Maybe finishing up rehab from an injury, or surgery.
Today Luke introduces us to a couple of people who have been looking forward to something for a long time as well. Anna and Simeon, both for different reasons, have been anticipating the Messiah for most of their lives.
In the Gospel, Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus to the Temple, 40 days after His birth. This was the Jewish tradition. And from this, our new tradition arose – Candlemas. The day we bless our candles. The day the light of the world arrived. Now, Anna and Simeon can go in peace.
But I doubt they did.
Seeing the baby Jesus, I bet they couldn’t stop talking about the Messiah. We don’t hear about them again in Scripture, but I’m sure they didn’t just quietly ride off into the sunset. They had work to do.
Think about it. When God enters your life, you can’t help but look forward. Your prayer, your faith, your love all point to the Kingdom of God, our final destination, and like those of you who work nights, we are always ‘on call’ for God. We gather in this Church knowing we have one foot on the ground, and one foot in heaven. Simeon knows his work has just started.
The light of Christ’s Church will continue long after each one of us is gone, just as it was here when we arrived. And we are part of that future. To lose hope, to not see any reason to go, is exactly the opposite of what the lives of Simeon and Anna teach us today. And Sarah. And Elizabeth. And Zechariah. And John the Baptist. They all teach us that we are part of something big.
Sometimes we lose sight of this, however. Sometimes, it’s hard to look ahead. You and your best friend have drifted apart, you were passed over for the vice-president position, you’ll have to get around in a wheelchair now, you are still single, you are still in the 7th grade. That’s not what you were looking forward to.
But when you find yourself discouraged, remember our second reading from Hebrews. “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” We don’t look forward alone. Your prayers are part of the communion of saints.
It’s sort of like when Dorothy, The Tin Man, and all of her friends were looking forward to meet Oz. Initially, it seems they have wasted their hopes. But we all know what happens when they get behind the curtain, work together, and roll up their sleeves. We can all see they how they participated in their anticipation. Their good efforts of looking ahead were rewarded.
There is always something to get excited about in your future. God is hard at work in your life, your friend’s life, your family, your co-workers, your own heart. There is something far greater than a refrigerator warranty in store for each one of us. No matter how old we are, or what we have — or haven’t — done, we look ahead, like Simeon, and get to work. As Christians, it is our duty. We are the bearers of hope to the world.
This weekend, it snowed again here in Chicago. It’s cold again. Many of us are shoveling, again. It’s still dark in the mornings. But no matter what happens, I know I will see the grass again. I will be able to wear shorts again. I will go to the beach again. I will sleep with the windows open again.
That’s looking forward. That’s anticipation. That’s believing in a future that I know I am part of, but I can’t see right now. That’s not going it alone.
Like Simeon and Anna, that’s trusting in God.