Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Feast of the Presentation: The Gift of Patience

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." (Luke 2:22-24)

One of my favorite tehologians, James Alison, has suggested that the story of the Presentation is an example of how what God is doing is so often overlooked by those who are focused on what the world sees as important. Had I been in the Temple that day, I am sure that my attention would have been drawn to all the activities of the priests and the levites and to the other obviously important people who were there. I would not have noticed the couple from Nazareth and their baby boy as they made the offering prescribed in Torah.

But Simeon and Anna didn't miss the really important thing that was happening that day - God's Messiah had come to the Temple and Simeon and Anna had eyes to see him. I am convinced that Anna's and Simeon's vision had been nurtured as they waited patiently for God to fulfill God's promises. I am convinced as well that the gift of patience is one that we need, perhaps now more than ever. We are an impatient people. We want what we want - and that is not always what we need - and we want it now. We are addicted to instant solutions to every problem - from our aches and pains - to problems with our relationships - to the crisis in the Anglican Communion. We seem unable to see that problems that have taken years - even decades - to develop are unlikely to be solved quickly.

Simeon and Anna had the patience that I lack and were willing to wait. They could have given up waiting, as I often do, when the waiting became longer and longer. But they didn't. They received from God the gift of patience, trusting that God would be faithful and that what God needed them to do was to wait and watch and - when the time was fulfilled - to see the wonderful that God was doing in Jesus the Christ.

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