If you're a senior of long-standing faith, you are likely very familiar with at least part of the first chapter of Luke's gospel. The good doctor begins his story before the birth of Christ and the celebration of the shepherds and the heavens. He begins even before Mary is visited by the angel.
He begins with an older couple who have lived long enough to believe that they will never have the blessing of a child.
The first passages of the Gospel of Luke are heavy with meaning for people of all ages, but for seniors, this part of the story can be especially comforting while also holding a warning about the need to hold fast to faith in the face of everything.
Whether you're considering moving into an assisted living community or happily enmeshed in the culture and community at Bethesda Gardens in Fort Worth, Texas, here are some lessons to take from the very beginning of Luke.
Many people refer to the 400 or so years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament as the silent years. That's because God seemingly fell silent, without prophets recording his message for Israel.
But that doesn't mean God wasn't with Israel. Human history marched violently and heavily onward during those 400 years. It's during this time that Alexander the Great and the Grecian empire rose and fell. It's also during this time that the Romans conquered much of Europe, Syria and beyond. The history of this time is also peppered with stories of God's people in struggle and in success, including the desecration of the Temple and the eventual rising of a group of priest warriors who overthrew the Syrian king to recapture Jerusalem and cleanse the temple.
And through all this, God was still God and his plan was still being carried out. The Old Testament was still being taught, and the way was being prepared for the Messiah.
On a smaller scale, this is also true in your life. When you go through periods where you feel God is silent in your life — or you're struggling with life simply moving on as it does — know that the Lord is with you and his plan is still perfect.
Luke tells us about Zechariah and Elizabeth, an older couple without children. Zechariah is a priest. Luke says, "Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all of the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly."
Some people might take this to mean that this couple had "earned" God's blessing and this is why they were chosen to be the parents of John the Baptist. But Jesus tells us this isn't how God works, and the real lesson isn't that the couple earned anything.
It's that even in what might have felt like God's silence — on the world stage as well as in their own lives — they continued with obedience.
For seniors of faith, this means living out what you believe God has called you to do regardless of where you are living it. Moving into an assisted living community, for example, doesn't change who you are in Christ at all. In fact, when you're open to obedience to God, that move can actually open doors that increase your ability to serve him as well as rest in him.
When the angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah in the temple and tells him he will have a son, Zechariah is in disbelief. It seems impossible. They are too old, for one.
But Zechariah allows his unbelief to overcome what he knows is true: That God is in the business of doing the impossible. He's struck with muteness until the baby is born because of his unbelief — perhaps so he won't speak it and infect others?
The story here is less about Zechariah going mute for 9 months or so. It's more about the fact that God can and will do the impossible.
Whether you've followed Jesus for years or are just coming to him, faith in these miracles can be difficult at times. And the longer you go without feeling like you're hearing God, the more surprising it can be when you see his power in action. But Zechariah's lesson is that no matter how odd you think the timing is, God's timing is perfect.
Finally, remember that God makes good on all his promises. He comes through for Zechariah and Elizabeth, and that's only a precursor to the larger promise he's about to fulfill.
And he will fulfill his promises to you, no matter where you live. God can work as mightily in an assisted living community as he does anywhere else, and at Bethesda Gardens, we have the joy of seeing him do so every day.