I had an important birthday last December and was bought the inevitable book of quotations about old age. Here is a sample:
“Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.” (Jennifer Yane)
Then there is Shakespeare’s famous piece:
“The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
I think I’m beginning to feel depressed. Even more so when I read Cicero:”As I give thought to the matter, I find four causes for the apparent misery of old age: first, it withdraws us from active accomplishments; second, it renders the body less powerful; third, it deprives us of almost all forms of enjoyment; fourth, it stands not far from death.”
Even worse are the following:
“Age is a prison from which we cannot escape”. (Morrow Bourne)
“Age is a slowing down of everything except fear.” (Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960)
“All diseases run into one, old age.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
The big question is:
ARE WE OVER THE HILL WHEN WE REACH 60?
Are we “past it”, or “on the scrap heap”? Perhaps we can’t do the things we used to do. We’re taking things more easily. But are we also vegetating?
Well, it’s certainly a possibility. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Take the two old folk in our Bible reading today.
SIMEON WASN’T OVER THE HILL
He is described as a righteous and devout man. He hadn’t settled for some spiritual middle aged spread, soft-pedalling on his commitment to God and the work of God’s kingdom. His spirituality, at his advanced age was remarkable.
The Bible also says that he was “moved by the Spirit.” In other words, he was particularly sensitive to the inner “promptings” of the Holy Spirit. God was still able to put thoughts in his mind and convictions on his heart that Simeon was sensitive enough to pick up and act upon.
More than that, he was prophetic. He was so sensitive to the “gentle whisper of the Spirit” that he recognised the baby Jesus was the long-promised Messiah. He had also picked up from God that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.
ANNA WASN’T OVER THE HILL
She was at least in her mid-eighties, but we are told that she “worshiped night and day” in the Temple. She was also fasting and praying. Again this elderly woman had not settled for less than total devotion to God.
Like Simeon, Anna was also prophetic. Both of them, having recognized Jesus as the Messiah, proclaimed this fact far and wide.
And so it was that, at the first Christmas, only two people recognised what God was doing and that Jesus was the Messiah simply through the depth of their spirituality. The shepherds had the heavenly choir and the Magi had the star. But only these two old folk had the spiritual depth to recognize the Messiah unaided.
What a challenge and encouragement that is to older people. We don’t need to be on some spiritual scrap heap. We can continue to grow in grace and spirituality, and in insight as tow hat God is doing.
How about it? How about renewing your commitment to God and spending more time in prayer and worship?
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction