Humble. Hopefull.

Sunday after Christmas

A Reading from Luke 2:22-40

The “third-third” of life, is a season both humbling and hopeful, as expressed in the lives of Anna and Simeon in Luke’s Gospel reading for the Sunday after Christmas.  Senior adults can flourish, living life to the fullest, and making a difference in their families and communities as Psalm 92 promises: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree . . . . In old age they still produce fruit.” 

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.”

Luke 2:25-32

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.

Luke 2: 36-38

For those in the last season of life, humility comes in the reality of loss and both physical and mental diminishment, yet their gifts of wisdom and peace are enabled by faith and grace.   Hope comes in a heightened recognition of God’s presence in quiet stillness and an ear tuned to listen and discern the work of the Spirit of God in the ordinary moments of life.

In this reading, we drop into one day in the life of two flourishing 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 lived a life of quiet watchfulness and prayer, waiting for the Coming of God.

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

Even though he had waited a lifetime, Simeon never gave up hope.  He honored the revelation of the Spirit and fully trusted that he would see the salvation of God in the Christ Child. 

Anna, a prophetess filled with God’s spirit, had endured great loss and silent years by spending her days in the presence of God daily, giving thanks, and speaking of the Messiah to everyone.  If they spoke in unison, the cry of Simeon and Anna’s hearts might be:

Come Lord Christ, I wait for your salvation.”

Breath Prayer. Anna and Simeon lived in a silent period of waiting and they did not give up hope. If you are in a season of dark and silent days, do not give up hope, but daily wait and pray.  Take a moment to breathe in this expectant prayer of hope: Inhale: Come Lord Christ. Exhale: I wait for your salvation.

Supernatural hope is the virtue that strips us of all things in order to give us possession of all things…that all things may serve their true purpose as means to bring us to God. Hope… 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. Hope empties our hands in order that we may work with them. It shows us that we have something to work for, and teaches us how to work for it. ” (Thomas Merton)

Pray. What things are not in their right order in your life, robbing you of hope? Talk with the Lord now about what might be standing in your way of living with purpose and hope in this season of your life.

Reflect.  Read Luke 2:22-40 a second time. If you are an older sage such as Anna and Simeon, how can you offer your gifts of faith, wisdom, and listening presence? In many of our families, there are those who are disillusioned and detached from faith in Christ. Some have been divided and wounded by the church and unwilling to get involved in anything spiritual.

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 comes 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.  One day while in her home, I was stunned to see her folding a large load of sheets used for families in transition who had stayed overnight at our church. Although she was frail, Jeanette humbly took home the heavy laundry. Throughout her active life she had been a celebrated leader in women’s ministry, yet the diminishment of age did not diminish her humble service in her third-third of life.

Spend some time with a Senior Adult who has given their life to serving Christ and others or an older family member.  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.

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