A52 GROWING OLD
St. Luke 2.vv.25-40
~ Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon: this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. And the Child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed - and a sword will pierce your own soul too".
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came; and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him. ~
"Though our outward nature is wasting away, yet we are renewed
day by day"
(2 Corinthians 4.v16).
"Let me grow lovely, growing old".
Inevitably all through life our bodily strength fades, but our souls should keep on growing. Ageing is a slope to death physically, but spiritually we should be climbing the hill to God. The years bring us close not to death, but to God. The sufferings of this world are naught in comparison with the glory of the next world. Why then shrink from looking into our inner nature? Perhaps we are not maturing spiritually?
We may be afraid of what we might find inside ourselves! We put up a ring of defences to hide our inner nature from curious eyes and finally succeed in keeping ourselves out too, as strangers to our own soul. A child is unashamedly itself in crying, laughing, free of pretence and frank! An adult, afraid, practises polite dissimulation, defences, disguise and is often condemned to insincerity. Not even we ourselves are allowed to see or suspect the hidden hollowness of horror within us. Professor Joad once said, "Whenever we looked in, we were so terrified that we immediately looked out". We don't like others prying or rummaging around in our personal lives. Let sleeping dogs lie! we say.
We may be afraid of the prospect of getting out of our depth. We feel safe in the shallows, but tend to become more and more worldly. It is safer to discuss the trappings of faith than the spiritual verities. Deep religious faith arises from deep religious experience, but all this comes from God.
How do we give God a chance? We should stop struggling and surrender to God - give up speech for silence, agitation for meditation and trying for trusting.
Anna, the prophetess, had surely learned the secret of growing old gracefully. Her love and religious insights had come to maturity. As she had daily said "Yes" to God, so had she been inwardly renewed. Those who walk with God who are ever mindful of his presence stay inwardly young and possess a spiritual beauty and attractiveness that do not wither. Like Simeon, another member of the "quiet of the land", that is, those undistinguished people who wait upon the Lord, she had gained spiritual insight that enabled her to discern the truth about the one to be king in the hearts of his followers.
Anna through her faith and love was enabled to recognise the nature and reality of the Lord Jesus. This is true spiritual insight. This is what we pray maturity of years may vouchsafe to us also.