Friday, December 26, 2014

Blessed are Those of Advanced Years

I have decided to invent a new Beatitude – I think we could just add it to the ones we have in Matthew 5.  I am sure everyone will agree.  It goes like this:

Blessed are those of advanced years,
For they shall see the outworking of God’s plans.

What do you reckon?  Is that a good one?

Well maybe we can’t just make out that Jesus said it but it was inspired in me by our Gospel reading today.

In our story we have the interaction of young and old.  We have the birth of a child.  We have the young parents doing all the right things for their new baby.  And we have two dear and godly old people who saw something that for them finally made sense of it all.

I know that it sometimes seems that the sidelining of the elderly by young people is a relatively recent phenomenon, but I recall seeing a quotation Aristotle, I think, or it may have been Plato, complaining of that very same thing.

I might have been guilty of expressing such attitudes when I was much younger, but now that the silver hairs are shining through, I have formed a different view. 

Now this will make you smile.  When I was in seminary we were discussed the role that ministers often have to make changes in congregations.  Our professor asked us who we thought would be most resistant to change.  Of course, we all said the oldies – the ones with the grey hair.  He then surprised us.  He said that in most circumstances it would be the middle aged people that would resist most strenuously.

The thing about being “of advanced years,” as I said before, is that by then you will have seen a lot of change.  This means that perhaps you understand it or maybe you just accept it.

The thing that alerted me to this in today’s story is the amazing things both Simeon and Anna said about the baby Jesus when they saw him.

Simeon said:
“With my own eyes
I have seen your salvation, 
which you have prepared
in the presence of all peoples: 
a light to reveal your will to the Gentiles 
and bring glory to your people Israel.” 

And Anna:
“gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were waiting for God to set Jerusalem free.” 

How did these two old people get so that when they saw the baby Jesus, they just knew these things about him?  Well, we could say it was the result of a miracle of revelation by the Holy Spirit.  I think there is a more obvious clue in the text.

Simeon is described as a good, god-fearing man who was “waiting for Israel to be saved.”  This lovely old spiritual man walked closely with his God.  He had even experienced the Holy Spirit in a special way.  He knew with great confidence that he would see the Messiah before he died.

And Anna was well known around the Temple area.  She was a widow who was now 84 and she had devoted her life to temple prayers.  The Spirit of God made her heart skip a beat, too, when she saw the baby Jesus.  She praised God and then told everyone who would listen that this child would be the means of salvation for the great city, Jerusalem.

Here we have the example of two wonderful people of advanced years.  They had devoted these later days of their lived to prayer and worship.  And because of that they were able to recognise Jesus for who he was.

What I would like to suggest is that we don’t need to wait until we are of advanced years to dedicate out lives to prayer and worship.  The example of these two can be an inspiration for us all, because it is through this devotion that we are all enabled to see Jesus for whom he is.

The Lord be with you.

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