All ages. Old and young. Jesus comes for everyone. This is a challenge to cultures that value some age-groups more than others.
In the celebrity culture of our day – where old people are often undervalued – we should notice that the very first people God chooses in preparing for Jesus, are an elderly couple: Zechariah and Elizabeth. We don’t know exactly how old they are, but the bible is very clear that ‘they both were very old’ (1:7). God does some amazing things in their lives, not the least enabling Elizabeth to become pregnant and give birth to John – the one who be the forerunner for Jesus. So the first people God uses in the New Testament are old people.
But this doesn’t mean that old people are better than young. No, God uses all. Which is why the next person who appears in the Advent story is young – an unmarried girl, Mary. She was pledged in marriage and able to conceive, but not yet married (Luke 1:27) so she was perhaps around 15 years old. That’s fairly young. It’s a young person God chooses to give birth to his Son.
The average church in the UK, especially in the North, has very few under-18s and virtually no 18-30s, but lots of over 65s. That’s why at The Belfrey we’ve been feeling an increasing call to invest in work amongst the under 30s so we can play our part in serving God’s transformation of the North. I’m sure that’s right and we’re already seeing some great things happening as we focus on that increasingly missing generation. The UK church for too long has been dominated by the older leaders, so it’s crucial that we identify, train and release the young. The young are crucial.
But so are the older ones. We mustn’t forget the older generation who have much wisdom to share; the faithful ones who’ve stood the test of time, and the retired people who, later in life are just beginning to discover faith in Christ for the first time. We don’t want to invest in the young and exclude the old. That’s not right and doesn’t reflect the work of the Spirit of Jesus. So we’re looking at ways to encourage older followers of Jesus to live lives of worship, discipleship and outreach and to show the seniors that they’re loved, nurtured, supported and valued.
At the first Advent God called both old and young. It’s no different today.
Is there a retirement date for followers of Jesus? Do you need to reassess your view of God calling and using old and young?