Let us pray: Dear Savior, our modern world is centered around the young, and the old often get shunted aside. Today You remind us that You are the Savior of all generations. You also remind us that the closer we are to heaven, the more we value and appreciate all that You have accomplished in saving us. So, whatever our numerical age, today we thank You for giving us joy over the gift of life. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE SAVIOR OF ALL AGES!
TEXT: Luke 2: 25-40
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Her name was: Mabel. She was an elderly shut-in that I visited when I vicared in Minneapolis. Her nephew had gone to seminary with my father-in-law, but later died early in his ministry. She knew the Bible and was considered a bit tough on young preachers. But, Mabel really took a shine to me, and I to her. During my year of vicarage we got to be very good friends. She often said that of all the young preachers she had known, I “had a gift” when it came to relating to older people. I still value that compliment today.
I suppose my appreciation of older “seasoned citizens” dates back to my relationship with my grandfather, Willard, and my grandmother, Velma Fox. I spent a lot of time with them each summer. Being the only grandson probably helped. O, they had their aches and pains. Like most folks they could be a bit terse at times, too. However, they never treated me like a little kid or talked down to me. We had adult conversations even when I was in grade school. And I guess my appreciation of the wisdom of older folks was the result.
Today we meet two “seasoned” Christians in the form of Simeon and Anna. Both lived in Jerusalem. Both were elderly—Anna was 84, and Simeon’s age isn’t mentioned but apparently he’s also about that same age. Anna was a widow woman and perhaps Simeon was never married. In any case, as they got closer to heaven they both resolved to spend a lot of their time at the temple in Jerusalem. We’re told of Anna: “She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” In short, they were both old enough to know that a God-centered life was really the most important thing in life.
It’s 8 days after Christ was born. As was the custom of the Jewish religious practice, Mary and Joseph took their young Son to the big city and the temple to offer sacrifice for Him. We’re told elsewhere it was but two turtle doves—the smallest, cheapest sacrifice that could be made. They were that poor. Yet, they gave to God the best they could afford. And that’s the point, isn’t it? God doesn’t expect grandiose things from us because He already owns everything. He’s rich beyond measure. He only expects the best from His people depending on their circumstances.
The other reason they went was to get Christ circumcised. This OT law dated back to Abraham. Got wanted to physical reminder of His spiritual presence with each of His sheep. What better way to humble the proud male progeny of Adam than to have a small portion of their most intimate bodily organ cut off to show that they were “cut off” from sin by God’s grace? As God’s Son, Jesus didn’t need to do this as He was without human sin. Yet, this first shedding of Christ’s blood is a graphic reminder of what was to come. Yes, “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.” So, by submitting to circumcision Jesus “fulfilled all rightness with God on our behalf.”
Simeon had been told by God (was it a vision or a dream?—we don’t know) that he would actually see the promised Messiah with his eyes before he died and went to heaven. We’re told here: “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.” No doubt Simeon was an amazing man—but all by God’s grace. That day, Simeon was moved by the Spirit and went to where Mary and Joseph held their Son. Without any bidding, he scooped up the Child and praised God for keeping His promise to him. The words which we know as the Nunc Dimittis, “Now Let You servant be dismissed from life because he has seen God in the flesh” flowed from his lips. What a powerful confession of faith from this old man! Yes, with age comes wisdom, gracefulness, and also great joy over life! Contrary to popular opinion, youth doesn’t have a corner on the joyfulness market!
The holy parents were amazed at all this, not to mention the attention and crowd it must have drawn. Simeon, under the Spirit’s guidance, singled out Mary and then announced a prophecy of how this Child would impact countless souls, some positively and some negatively, and how deep anguish would result for Mary.—Which of course, we know played out that way in Christ’s Passion.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement for the day, Anna then comes up to this little conclave and “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Redemption is the key word here. It means to “buy back” for a price. She knew that the Baby Jesus was God’s Son, the promised Messiah. She knew that He would have to suffer and die and shed a whole lot of blood to save God’s Holy people. And most importantly, she believed it!—Just like you and me.
I’ve been in God’s public ministry for a bit over 30 years now. “With age comes wisdom” is not a cliché. I can prove it, too. For various texts that I wasn’t able to preach on 28 years ago, now easily flow from my lips and my keyboard! Being exposed to God’s Word and using it daily means a person’s incremental wisdom about that Word builds up over time. Age can mean (if you’re plugged into God’s truth and not mere human wisdom) that you not only see daily blessings, you also appreciate them, savor them, and grow in them. It was so for Simeon, Anna, Mary, and Joseph. Likewise, it is so for each of us, too.
The youth of Christ is addressed here in those pregnant words: “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.” Indeed! How could it be otherwise? He was the eternal Son of God in human flesh!
The greatest weakness of our modern society is its failure to appreciate, learn from and build on the wisdom of the aged. Young people haven’t yet experienced the huge ups and downs of life (I mean the really big ones). They haven’t yet developed strong character roots so that they don’t go to pieces when they get slammed by awful sins and sin-driven world events. Few young folks possess true wisdom because the patience that comes with it just hasn’t occurred yet in their lives. So, how can any of us achieve the staying power of a Simeon or an Anna when it comes to our faith? We can do exactly as they did. We can cling to God’s Word of promise, specifically the Gospel; feed our faith daily, pray regularly, and let joy flow from our hearts via worship. The bottom line is this: YOU CANNOT RUSH THE WISDOM THAT COMES FROM GODLY FAITH! Amen