the spice box “Not too old to serve”
By Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel
As I grow older, I tend to think that the celebration known as “Christmas” is designed more for the young than for the old. Preparations for a traditional Christmas take a lot of energy! The kids, the adolescents, the young adults with their children, even the mid-lifers with their busy schedules and plans for a holiday with the grandkids—a certain excitement is in the air as they prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. For Christians in ministry, the excitement and the urgency of the need to bring the true meaning of this season to the attention of the people whom they serve make the long, exhausting hours worthwhile. All is done to the glory of God, and he is pleased.
It’s not quite so simple for some of our elderly, especially for those who no longer have the strength or energy to engage in the ministry in the same way we used to. It can be a little depressing to recognize how much one can no longer do. How does one serve God in a meaningful way when even getting up out of a chair is a time-consuming task? Does God then exempt us from his call to service?
‘Taint gonna happen. God still has a ministry, even for the invalid, the elderly, the person of diminished capacity. It may be a different aspect of ministry, it may not be a limelight ministry, it may not even be a ministry anyone else will know about, but count on it, it will be one God values and will use to accomplish his purposes.
Only consider how God used the elderly Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, in preparing for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus—how Elizabeth, an elderly woman thought too old to bear a child but pregnant through a miracle of God, welcomed and supported Mary, an unwed mother-to-be in an age when a woman pregnant out of wedlock could have been put to death by stoning. God blessed Elizabeth’s loving service by revealing to her an incredible truth: By welcoming this unwed teenage cousin, she was participating in bringing about the coming of the Messiah! And how Zechariah, mute from the moment a son was promised to him and his elderly wife until after the birth of that son, testified and prophesied, not only regarding his own son’s mission, but about the Messiah who was to come. People heard, and were in awe of the message proclaimed by an old man.
And think about the day Joseph and Mary brought Jesus with them to the temple to present the required offering before the Lord. There Simeon, an elderly, devout layman whom the Spirit of God caused to come to the temple at that moment, recognized immediately that this was the Christ child, and publicly praised God for allowing him to actually see him, the realization of his fondest hope. Simeon spoke words of praise in the temple, but God also gave him a private message that would help to prepare Mary for impending trials, a message that Mary continued to ponder in days to come.
Or consider Anna—she must have been more than 100 years old that day in the temple, but she still served with her prayers and supplications and fasting. She offered praise and thanksgiving for the advent of this child, and she spoke of the impact of his coming to all who looked forward to the redemption of Israel.
Never, ever, be afraid that you are too old, too incapacitated, to be able to serve God to his satisfaction. God used Elizabeth, an elderly woman with physical problems of her own, to support a young woman in need. Zechariah submitted to God’s plan, and sang a song of salvation that will be remembered throughout the ages. Old Simeon came to the temple in response to the Spirit’s urging; he welcomed the Messiah with words of praise to God, and murmured words of encouragement to a wondering young mother. Frail Anna recognized that God was keeping his redemptive promise, and shared her message with any who would listen. All this was done to glorify God.
And then there’s you and me. We pray, we study the Word, that our lives might reflect to others the image of Christ; we offer the needed smile, the listening ear, the encouraging word. We may be older; we may not be able to serve in the same ways we used to, but still we do what we can to glorify God and honor his Son.
And God is pleased.