Friday, December 26, 2008

JESUS...A Gift For The AGING

Christmas at age 2. Christmas at age 5. Christmas at age 10. Christmas at age 20. Christmas at age 30. Christmas this year at age 43. It is amazing how Christmas takes on a whole new mindset depending on my age. And I am sure that as I grow older, it will continue to do the same. But for many who are aging, Christmas joy is but a distant memory more than it is a present reality. But in the story of two aging saints in Luke 2:21-28, we see that Jesus is a Christmas gift for the aging.

In this passage, Mary and Joseph are presenting Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem. While at the temple, they meet an aging man and an aging woman. The aging man is named Simeon. Simeon was a righteous and devout man, meaning that he obeyed the Law. He longed for the Messiah and was filled with the Holy Spirit. It is obvious in the passage that he is ready to die which suggests that he was an aged man. But Simeon had been made a promise by God. Simeon had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. This promise came from the Holy Spirit and was no doubt granted due to Simeon’s intense longing for the Messiah.

Can you see where this story is going? Simeon was led by the Spirit into the temple at the exact same time that Mary and Joseph entered with Jesus to present him and offer a sacrifice. The Holy Spirit let Simeon know that this child was his long awaited Messiah. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and blessed God. He praised God for keeping his promises and acknowledged that by seeing Jesus he had seen God’s salvation. Simeon communicated that he could now die in peace. He uses the word “depart” to speak of his death. This word was used to describe the release of a prisoner; the untying of a ship to set it sail; or the taking down of a tent. What a beautiful picture. For the Christian, death frees us from the burdens of this life. For the Christian, the best is yet to come. Simeon communicates that Jesus would not just be the glory of Israel but also a light showing God’s path to the world. What a gift Jesus was to the aged Simeon.

But the passage also speaks of an aging woman named Anna. Anna was a godly woman who was a prophetess. She was the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. Her name meant "grace." Depending on how you take the passage, she was either 84 years old or had been a widow for 84 years making her much older. Anna’s husband had died 7 years after their marriage and she remained a widow. Widows were often neglected and exploited in that day. But Anna devoted herself to serving God in the temple through fasting and prayer.

Again we see God’s perfect timing as Anna appears as Simeon blesses baby Jesus. Upon seeing the Christ-child, she too realizes who He is and immediately gives thanks to God. She then spread the news of the Messiah’s birth to all who were looking for this promised redemption. Jesus was a special gift to this aging woman.

Are you finding the Holidays a struggle due to aging? A senior citizen once told me, “Growing old isn’t for sissies!” She was right. But praise God…Jesus is gift for the aging!

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