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The Over-the-hill Gang of the Christmas Story

A priest named Zechariah, … his wife Elizabeth,  a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, [and] a prophetess, Anna. -Luke 1 & 2:              

One of the fascinating aspects of the Christmas story is the people who are part of it.  We all know about the Wise Men, The Shepherds, Herod, and of course Mary and Joseph, even the Inn keeper.  But there are four others, which sort of like background scenery are there but seldom noticed.  It is strange how little attention we have given to them in light of the fact that with Mary and Joseph they are the only ones named who are “in on” the meaning of Jesus birth. They are Zechariah, his wife Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna.  You can read their stories in Luke chapts. 1 and 2.
            Zechariah, a priest and Elizabeth were childless.  Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, perhaps a cousin.  One day an angel visits Zechariah in the temple and promises them a son.  That son was John the Baptist.
            Simeon was “righteous and devout.”  He was waiting for God to fulfill a promise to him.  The promise was an assurance that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  At God’s direction Simeon was sent to the temple where he met Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
            Anna was an 84 year old widow. She was close to God and never left the temple.  There with Simeon she met the holy family.  Along with Simeon she carried a special message about Jesus.
            These four shared two traits.  The were all faithful people who lived close to God.  But beyond that perhaps the most obvious thing they share was their age.  They were old.  We might call them “The Over-the-hill-gang” of the Christmas story.
            Because of that they provide an important reminder to our youth-worshiping culture—THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR MATURE SAINTHOOD!
            The younger are often busy—having a good time and making a living, occasionally touching bases at church.
            These old-timers—last of the Old Testament  Saints (Godly People), held on hoping, trusting.  And as a result they were visited by God.  They are representatives of those faithful through all the years who did not live to see the day!  I wonder: how much did they have to do with it being “the fullness of time”?
            Isn’t it strange how “golden agers” think the gospel, church, etc. are for younger (and vice versa).  Too many have “folded up their tents” spiritually speaking—retired, stopped looking, hoping, anticipating.  Instead they are often living in past.
            In my first pastorate after seminary, I was serving a Friends (Quaker) congregation.  As part of my pastoral responsibility I was systematically calling on the members to “inquire about their spiritual health.”  I was to ask one of the basic Small Group questions—“how are you doing?” with an added word—spiritually?
           Luella Jones was an old-time Quaker, approaching 90.  She had served with The American Friends Service Committee, a ministry known around the world for their work for peace and justice.  When I asked her that question, she looked at me and said matter-of-factly, “He talked to me today.”
            Now it’s good to say, “I talked to God today,” but to be able to say, “He talked to me today,” models a relationship with God to be pursued.  One of Lulella’s common expressions spoke volumes about her.  When relating some ministry, event or positive development to her this old woman would invariably respond, “Goodie!”  Patience, vision (world-wide), enthusiasm! –near 90 years old.
            Age should not be a liability in God’s family.  Of course we need the young, but where there are mature saints, there is a depth, a power that we cannot do without.
            You do not become an aged saint by deciding at 65 you want to be one.  You do it by living faithful lives all the years.  One of the wonders of the Good News is how it fits every age and how important each age is to the full picture.
            Thank God for the “Over-the-hill-gang” of the Christmas story.  I want to be one of them.  Don’t you?

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