Humble. Hopefull.

Sunday after Christmas

A Reading from Luke 2:22-40

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

For those living in the what has been called the “third-third” of life, the benefits and losses of being a “Senior” are both humbling and hopeful, as expressed in the lives of Anna and Simeon in Luke’s Gospel reading for the Sunday after Christmas. 

Humility comes in a daily awareness of the reality of new diminishment and the acceptance of change and loss.  Hope comes in a heightened recognition of God’s spirit and presence in the ordinary moments of quiet reflection and offering gifts of wisdom and experience to those who follow.

We drop into one day in the life of two Seniors, Anna and Simeon, who have led long lives of leadership and prayer.  Commentator William Barclay calls them the “Quiet in the Land,” men and women who believed in constant prayer and quiet watchfulness until the Coming of God.

Simeon is described as “righteous and devout, waiting for salvation, and with the Holy Spirit.”

Anna, a prophetess also filled with God’s spirit, has endured great loss and silent years by seeking the presence of God daily.  If they spoke in unison, the cry of Simeon and Anna’s hearts might be:

Come Lord Christ, I wait in the Spirit for your salvation.”

For Anna and Simeon, there is hope, a hope Thomas Merton speaks of as “depriving us of everything that is not God, in order that all things may serve their true purpose as means to bring us to God. Hope is proportionate to detachment. It brings our souls into the state of the most perfect detachment. In doing so, it restores all values by setting them in their right order.”

Share with the Lord all that stands in your way of finding true purpose and hope.

Even though he had waited a lifetime, Simeon did not give up.  He kept his reputation as a good man trusted with spiritual revelation as he saw the salvation of God in the Christ Child.  Anna also waited a long lifetime to see the salvation of God, giving thanks, and speaking of the Messiah Jesus to everyone.

They lived in a silent period of waiting for the Messiah and they did not give up hope that God would one day bring about salvation, a light in the presence of all peoples.  As we go through dark and silent days, we cannot give up hope, or prayer, or daily putting ourselves in a place to recognize God’s saving presence.  If you are older sages such as Anna and Simeon, continue to hope and believe, watch and wait, and “speak of Jesus to all who are waiting for redemption.”

Reflect.  Read Luke 2:22-40 a second time. Look for verbs of hope: See salvation.  Give thanks. Speak of Christ. 

Salvation through Jesus the Christ is for all people. Yet as Simeon said to Mary, many will be divided and wounded: “This child marks both the failure and the recovery of many in Israel, A figure misunderstood and contradicted—the pain of a sword-thrust through you—But the rejection will force honesty, as God reveals who they really are.” Luke 2:34-35

Who does this bring to mind?  How can you be gentle and faithful in speaking of Christ to someone who has given up looking for salvation? 

Practice. Celebrate the life of a Quiet One.

My friend Jeanette was a modern-day Anna.  In her 80s-90s she was still faithfully serving her beloved community.  I was stunned one day while in her home, as she was folding some sheets used for families in transition who stayed at our church. Although she was frail, she humbly took on the heavy load of laundry. Throughout her active life she had been a celebrated leader in women’s ministry, yet the diminishment of age did not diminish her quiet service. 

Spend some time with a Senior who has given their life to serving Christ and others.  Express your gratitude by taking time to listen to their stories and hear the truth of wisdom earned and practiced through many years of faithful waiting on the Lord.

Breath Prayer for the week: “Come Lord Christ, I wait in the Spirit for your salvation.”

Resources.

The Great Annual Examen is a tool which helps you reflect on all that this past year has brought you in several dimensions: health, relationships, emotions, work, and your life with God.  Last year I went through the Annual Examen with a group of soul friends. It was a great way to encourage and reflect with accountability and love. Please don’t be quick to let 2020 go until you do necessary inner work to find forgiveness, freedom, and faith for the new year ahead. If you need a spiritual companion along the way, please reach out: robbijames@gmail.com

 FREE DOWNLOAD The Great Annual Examen from Potter’s Inn Soul Care.

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