Summary: Anna, who’s name means "grace," at 103 years of age celebrated the first coming of our Lord in the Temple, showing us how to grow old gracefully: Don’t complain; instead, celebrate and share the good news with as many people as you can.
A little girl came home from Sunday school waving a paper for her mother to see. “Look Mommy,” she exclaimed, “Teacher says I drew the most unusual Christmas picture she ever saw!”
Her mother took one look and had to agree with the teacher. Hoping her daughter could explain her creation, the mother asked, “Why are all these people riding in the back of an airplane?”
“Well, Mommy, that’s the flight into Egypt.”
Accepting that, mother asked another question: “Who is this mean-looking man in the front?”
Her daughter answered quickly and knowingly: “That’s Pontius, the Pilot.”
Looking at the picture even more closely, the mother said, “I see you have Mary and Joseph and the baby. But who is this large man sitting behind Mary?”
“Can’t you tell?” the little girl asked, beginning to shake her head in disappointment. “That’s Round John Virgin.” (John Beukema, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania; www.PreachingToday. com)
Children have such a unique view of Christmas, but then so do the elderly.
Just a few years ago, Newsweek did an article on the aging Billy Graham. In that article, One of Dr. Graham’s daughters, Anne Graham-Lotz, recounted a conversation with her father on the subject of aging. “All my life, I’ve been taught how to die,” Billy told her, “but no one ever taught me how to grow old.”
She replied, “Well, Daddy, you are now teaching all of us.” (Jon Meacham, "Pilgrim’s Progress," Newsweek, 8-14-06, p. 38; www.PreachingToday.com)
That’s the question I want us to explore this morning: How do we grow old? Despite the pain that life can bring, despite the disappointments, despite the trouble we experience along the way, how do we grow old gracefully? How do we grow old without getting cynical and jaded? How do we grow old and still retain the joy and wonder of a child at Christmas?
This an important question whether you are nine or ninety, because all of us are growing old; all of us face disappointments and pain which can rob us of our joy at any age. So how do we grow old without losing that joy?
Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Luke 2,
Luke 2, where we see how a 103 year-old-widow did it, who was around that first Christmas.
Luke 2:36-37a There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.
Or quite possibly, she was a widow for 84 years! The original Greek will allow both translations. One commentator suggested that if she had
married at the earliest marriageable age, 12 years, lived 7 years with her husband, and then been a widow for 84 years, she could not be less than a 103 years old at this time! (Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown)
Here is a woman that has experienced a long life with plenty of pain and disappointment. She had no family to take care of her. And in that day, widows did not have an easy time of it. They were often neglected and exploited, despite the requirements of the Old Testament Law (Exodus 22:22).