If you’re like most, packed boxes brimming with bubble wrap and Christmas décor line your hallways and await a trip to the attic. My decorations still adorn the mantel, deck the halls and walls, and adorn the tree, as our family continues to celebrate the season until after ringing in the New Year. Whatever your tradition, the holiday season comes to a close and like me the song in your heart may sound something similar to the lyrics from The Sound of Music as Maria left the Abbey for the first time and sang, “What will this day [year] be like, I wonder?”
Some of us look to the New Year with an optimistic point of view, eager to claim the new territory that lies ahead. For others, the new year brings fear and uncertainty, coupled with doubt and dread. Perhaps for some, an unfinished task lingers, weighing you down. Or maybe you sit in waiting for the arrival of something new from the Lord. In each and every one of these postures, two words come to mind—one holds a positive connotation, the other a negative one.
Which two words pop in my head as I ponder the coming year today?
Anticipation and Anxiety.
From the first word—anticipation—flows a positive response. When we anticipate, we look with wild-eyed longing, almost unable to control the hope-filled, joy-filled wonder emerging from within. The second—anxiety—conjures up negative emotions in both my heart and my head. Worry drains and strains my emotions, causing systematic shut-down at times.
But what if, like those cherished decorations we packed away all secure, we wrapped all of our anxiety and worry with anticipatory grace and wonder instead?
What if in the unfinished tasks, the unknown plans, and the weariness of waiting, we chose to flip the negative and focus on something or someone instead.
You see, waiting in wonder requires discipline and strength, but remember, we never wait alone.
I am reminded of two characters in Scripture that make their entrance after the Christmas story. Just when we begin to close the season, these two hope-filled, individuals enter the scene with a lesson for us today.
You’ll find the story of Simeon and Anna in Luke 2:21-38 and as you read you’ll discover that they awaited the coming Messiah for many, many years. Yet, they looked to the future, not with anxious hearts and worried minds, but with anticipatory grace, wonder-filled at the coming of their King.
Let’s take a look at Simeon as he waited. What posture did he assume? How did he wait? Does Scripture indicate that anxiety overtook him? Do we see any effort on his part to take matters into his own hands? What about his focus? Did he become side-tracked, distracted, or stressed by his circumstances or the length of his tenure as he waited?
Nothing in this passage indicates any of those things. From what we know, Simeon waited in hope by seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit, by being attentive to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and by being directed by the Spirit as he prayed a blessing over the Christ child.
What about the Prophetess Anna? Though only mentioned in Scripture for three verses, her reach extends far beyond the few words scripted in God’s Word. Though widowed at a young age, Anna spent most of her life in waiting. She awaited the promised Messiah with anticipatory grace as she spent her days worshipping, praying, and fasting.
What do these two people at the end of the Christmas story reveal to us about anticipation and wonder? A lesson wrapped in hope and wonder, I believe.
In His perfect timing God placed Simeon and Anna in the exact place they needed to be and at the exact moment they needed to be there. He did this so they could experience an extraordinary encounter with the long awaited Messiah. God’s timing in their lives gives me hope for the new year, what about you?
These two did not know what to expect, and as you and I embark on a new year, neither do we. However, as we choose to wait in wonder and anticipation, blessings abound around the corner. As the calendar turns and days turn to weeks, and weeks to months, we have the opportunity to wrap the questions, the fears, the doubts, and the anxious thoughts in the presence of the One who controls our tomorrows.
Brother Lawrence penned this sentiment, and I believe his words can be the packaging we wrap our questions and fears in today.
He said, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God; those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.
That, my friends, is the bubble wrap for the fragile unknowns, fears, and anticipations. A continual conversation with God, His presence made manifest in our lives as a result of complete dependence on Him.
What will this year be like, I wonder? May the wonder and anticipation of the new overshadow our dread, our doubts, and our fears by the presence and grace of our Jesus—the reason for our next season.