Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] 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. (Luke 2:25-26)
We live in a culture that worships youth. People where makeup and color their hair to stay looking younger. They get facelifts and Botox injections to eliminate wrinkles. Churches bemoan the fact that they are getting older – if only there were more young people. Of course, young people are important and reaching and including them in church life is important. But not to the exclusion of celebrating the older people in our midst and feeling like something is wrong if there are lots of elderly folks around. Everyone, young or old, matters to God.
This lesson in Luke comes from a different time and place. In that day, longevity was much less common. While we say, “70 is the new 50,” back then 50 was a normal life and 70 was a big deal. Very few people made it that far. To have lived as long as Simeon has lived in our story was uncommon and a real blessing. In this case, Simeon had also heard a promise from God, “You will not die until you have seen the Messiah.” Such a promise was an incredible thing. First, it meant that Simeon would be blessed to live long enough to witness the coming of the anointed one. But second, because Simeon was already old, it also meant the Messiah was coming very, very soon.
In our own time, we need a similar balance. The arrival of a baby brought Simeon hope. The wisdom and insights from Simeon’s decades of life brought him the awareness to recognize that Jesus was the one he had been waiting for. Elders in our own community of faith need to celebrate and nurture the arrival of younger people in our midst. They also need to be willing to relate to them and share wisdom, support and love that only decades of experience can provide in the way grandmotherly and grandfatherly people can.