THE SECOND PRIME OF LIFE
Devotional for December 31, 2017 based upon Luke 2: 22-40
Something I really enjoy watching or listening to is someone totally using their best gifts in the prime of their life. Whether it is in music or sports, or the chance to hear really great preaching, or whatever, I enjoy seeing, hearing, or watching someone function when they are at their absolute best.
But then there are others who will say, “I am past my prime. My best days are over. The best days have all come and gone.” I wonder if Simeon and Anna ever felt like that.
By the time we meet them, Simeon is an old man. When he was younger, Luke tells us, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” Can you imagine what that would be like? To be told that you would not die until something really great had happened.
And there must have been a time when Anna dreamed of a glorious life. But Luke tells us that her husband died just “seven years after her marriage.” Things had not turned out like she had planned. Anna was now eighty-four years old. You get the picture of an older widow and an older single man now spending most of their time hanging around church. Luke tells us, Anna “never left the temple,” but worshipped there day and night. Most people would say that their best days were over. The best had come and gone. They were long past their prime.
But the world defines “the prime of life” in a way that is very different from the way in which God defines it. The world sees the prime of life as that season when we are most physically strong and mentally alert. God sees the prime of life as the season when we are the most spiritually strong and spiritually alert. Exactly what Simeon and Anna’s first prime of life looked like – to what extent it corresponded to the worldly version of youth, health, wealth, and influence – that we really do not know. But we do know that these two people had clearly come into the second prime of life.
For one thing, they were truly FAITHFUL PEOPLE. The Bible says that Simeon was “righteous and devout.” Which does not mean that he was perfect. But it does mean that he stayed close to God. Luke tells us how Anna maintained her intimacy with God. She was in the temple day and night. She had established a daily rhythm of worship, prayer, and fasting that built up her spirit even when her body was breaking down.
Second, they were PERSEVERING PEOPLE. For eighty years Simeon and Anna had kept trusting God. Through tragedies like the early death of Anna’s husband, and through the long wait between God’s original promise to Simeon and its fulfillment on that first Christmas, these two people persevered in trusting God.
And third, Simeon and Anna were SPIRIT-LED PEOPLE. Anna was a prophetess. Which means that she was someone who expected to hear from God, and she was someone who dared to speak for God. And the Gospel writer Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit rested on Simeon.
Which means that Simeon went places and did things as he sensed the Spirit was directing him.
It is hard to overstate just how much faithfulness, perseverance, and being responsive to the Spirit count with God. But in this story we see that at a time when the world probably would have regarded them primarily as candidates for senior housing, God chose Simeon and Anna to do one of the most important tasks ever performed in all of human history. They declared the true identity of Jesus. They helped Jesus’ parents prepare for what lay ahead. Simeon said to Mary, “A sword will pierce your soul also.” And they passed on a blessing, which eventually was passed on to us.
So what about you? No matter how young or how old you are today, you might be like Simeon and Anna were earlier that day – about to do the greatest and most important thing that you do in life. Are you in your prime – your first prime? Are you just coming into your first prime? Are you in your second prime? Or do you feel that you are past your prime?
Are you FAITHFUL like Simeon and Anna? Are you practicing the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, and fasting? Are you nurturing what Luke said Simeon had – a “righteous and devout” spirit?
Are you PERSEVERING like Simeon and Anna? In spite of all your setbacks, doubts, and questions, are you still waiting for the one who is the hope of us all? Are you helping others trust in the promises and the good plans of God?
Are you SPIRIT-LED like Simeon and Anna? Do you have a good word from God that others need to hear? Are you willing to go where God tells you to go? Is God calling you, like He called Simeon and Anna, to declare the true identity of Jesus, to help others prepare for what lies ahead, and/or to pass on a word of blessing?
Whether you are just coming into your prime, in your prime, or in your second prime, never see yourself as past your prime. Rather be like Simeon and Anna. Faithful, persevering and following the lead of the Spirit wherever you may be in life.
Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE