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ACTIVE-–-WAITING

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					ACTIVE – WAITING LUKE 2:22 – 40 Waiting – Some of you are waiting right now, waiting for me to start with a joke, make 3 points and finish with a prayer, in no longer than 10 minutes! So let’s get active! A pastor waited in line to have her car filled with petrol just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him in front of the service station. Finally, the attendant motioned the pastor toward a vacant pump. "Reverend," said the young man, "Sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip." The pastor chuckled, "I know what you mean. It's the same in my business." Have you ever felt that you are spending your life waiting? Waiting for the bus? Waiting for the chip shop to open? For the winning lottery ticket to appear in your life? Waiting can seem like a waste of time, just hanging around, particularly when waiting for buses in this city!

Two people in the gospel today had spent all their lives waiting - hanging around! Simeon we are told had been waiting all of his life for Israel to be saved and Anna hadn’t left the temple in many years. She was waiting for the time to tell everyone about the child who would bring redemption to Israel. I wonder if Anna and Simeon saw their time of waiting as waste of time, if they did just hang out inside the temple waiting, sitting around or if they made use of that waiting time. Fred was a busy man, so busy that although he desperately wanted a pet, he didn’t have the time to care for a dog or cat. So he heads to the pet store and after much consultation settles on a centipede. You know the insect that has 100 legs. Sunday comes and Fred is going to church, he calls into Sid the centipede’s box, “are you coming to church?” “Yes” squeaks the voice. After more minutes of waiting Fred says into the box “are you coming to church?” “YES” squeaks Sid. After more minutes of waiting, Fred taps on the box and shouts “are you coming to church or not, Sid?” “Yes”, says Sid “I am just putting my shoes on!” You see waiting isn’t a stationery activity; things can and are going on.

What about Simeon and Anna were they just waiting, looking inward into the temple? Simeon we are told was a good, God-fearing man, he was known for his commitment to habitual

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practice of God in his daily life, over many years. He remained faithful to God, he did not fall to temptation, he didn’t become ritualistic – with no feeling behind his words, and he didn’t lost faith or lose interest. No he waited actively, praying and worshiping God.

Anna had been a widow for many years by the time she met, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. How easy it would have been for her to give up and walk away from the temple and God. However she remained faithful, worshiping day and night, fasting and praying, giving thanks to God.

Neither had been told the day or time that the waiting would be over, when Israel would be saved, there was no countdown clock on the temple wall. They lived in faithfulness and waited actively. It would have been so much easier if they had, had a sign – just like for us how useful a bus timetable or shop opening hours are. Do you remember a few years ago the national lottery ran an advertising campaign in which we saw people going about their normal lives, when suddenly there would be a clap of thunder, the skies would part and a huge finger would come out of the sky, point at the unsuspecting person and a voice would boom, “It’s you!”. Wow what a sign…

Sally was a good woman, she worked hard, was faithful to God but was struggling to make ends meet. She prays to God, “God, I work hard, I am faithful but I can’t make ends meet if I could just have a win on the lottery, a little amount even would be great. The lottery draw comes and goes! The next week Sally prays again, “I work hard, I am faithful but money is really tight and my rent is overdue, a lottery win would be great.” The draw comes and goes, no win. The next week, “God, I am desperate I am being evicted, I have been faithful to you, why haven’t you helped me?” Suddenly a booming voice comes out of nowhere, “Sally, you have got to work with me on this one – you need to at least buy a ticket!” We won’t always have signs from God or a timetable of events. We will need to wait. The choice is do we wait sitting in our lives or do we actively wait, standing looking outwards from the church steps, living and acting in prayer? Remember Simeon wasn’t sitting in the front pew head down, if he had been he might have missed the family coming up to present the Christ child. Instead he was there in the temple courts looking outwards, waiting actively. Anna came up to the family, they didn’t go to her. So after all those years of active waiting, she was there at that time to speak about Jesus, it wasn’t an accident. “She arrived and gave thanks to God and spoke about the child, to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free.”

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How are you waiting? Just enduring something, marking time until a decision is made, an interview attended, until this preach is completed? Or are you actively waiting? Are you growing in faithfulness and hope? Are you using your time and talents to make waiting – active waiting? Here’s a thing! It is very unlikely that a big finger will come out of the sky and boom, “It’s you, the time is now, here’s the winning lottery number!” when Jesus came into the world he didn’t arrive as a King with legions of slaves and servants, no press release, no printed timetable of events… Did you see the coverage of the King of Saudi Arabia’s recent state visit to England? It took 6 hours to unload the 3 jumbo jets containing his luggage and staff. A convoy of 40 limos took the royal procession from Heathrow into London. In fact the only similarity between that King’s arrival and Jesus’ was there wasn’t room at the inn in this case Buckingham Palace, but they didn’t downsize to a cave or stable, they took over all the hotels in the area.

Jesus came as a baby, his presence unnoticed by those people who should have been actively waiting, the self-proclaimed experts and important people, the priests and holy people, after all they had been predicting the exact time that God would save Israel and how it would happen. Instead Jesus was met by shepherds and strangers from a foreign land. Even when he came into the temple to be presented to God-his Parent, those who had been sitting looking inward didn’t see him. It was those who had been actively waiting who saw him, an old faithful servant and an 84 year old woman.

In the church season we are about to enter the period of Lent, 40 days of waiting. How we wait is our choice. Do we just mark time until the day we can eat chocolate eggs for breakfast, have another service were our florists excel themselves and our musicians and singers perform an upbeat piece of music. Or do we actively wait? Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. Jesus knew what was going to happen to him when he entered Jerusalem, but he didn’t just wait it out, he was active in that waiting time in fasting and prayer, strengthening himself, so that he was prepared physically and spiritually for what was to come. Lent gives us a set period of waiting to be active in - Why don’t you consider undertaking study, a new prayer discipline, decide to attend one of the small groups run during the week. What

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about exploring one of the teams within MCC Newcastle, for example you could fill that waiting time before a service by helping to establish a worship environment which will create a space for people to come closer to God. Away from Sunday 6.30 – 7.30, small groups and teams, we have plenty of opportunity to wait-actively, instead of tutting and tapping the steering wheel in a traffic jam, why not bless God and pray for the people around you also stuck in the jam. If like me you have an ability to pick the wrong queue in the supermarket every single time, then instead of doing the certain to fail queue hopping dance, why not use that waiting time actively, thank God for a few moments of stillness in our busy lives, maybe even smile at the people in queue around you.

Instead of thinking about how much time we are wasting waiting, how about actively waiting, as we wait on God, just as Simeon and Anna did. Let’s finish with a prayer! Prayer

Amen.

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