There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:36-40)
Today, we read of the prophetess Anna. A woman of God in the senior years of her life, living in the temple, praying constantly to God, who holds the baby Jesus and instantly sees Him as the redemption of the world.
All very Biblical and consistent. You and I have two alternatives after reading this. We can respect and enjoy its words as part of the Christmas narrative. Or we can stop and reflect on what Anna is telling is. What her life tells us about our lives.
It would have been easy for Anna, after she was widowed as a young woman, to just turn within in self-pity, as if God had abandoned her. Instead, she spent the next several decades of her life worshipping God day in night in the temple, fasting, and praying, thanking God and, after she met Jesus, speaking about him to everyone who was awaiting redemption. It wasn’t about her, which is what a worldly life leads to; it was about God.
There were many things in Anna’s life that were disappointing. She lost her husband; she had no children. Her world was very much a male-dominated one where women were expected to be silent and unobtrusive. As a widow with no children, she was limited in ways to support herself. But she does not live with regrets, she is focused on God, focused on the future. She didn’t play the “if only” game. She lived her life without regrets. Although Anna knew heartache and loss, she focused on hope.
That love of God, that trust in God, that unquenchable hope all gave Anna a remarkable gift. She sees beyond the Cradle through the Cross to the Crown. She tells us of our need to weather the storms, the pains, the griefs. She reminds us that the ultimate stage of our faith is the Crown—the salvation of Christ and eternal life..
One more “hmmm.” By her ability to focus on the Crown, she reminds us that authentic hope in God goes well beyond the day to day. We can easily grow discouraged when trials and setbacks come our way. Life’s shortcomings and disappointments can either weigh us down or press us closer to God. The choice is ours – to rely on ourselves and our own strength or to put our trust wholly in God alone and in the grace and strength which he provides.
Where do you place your hope? Scripture reminds us that God gives us a (supernatural) hope beyond hope, a (divine) love stronger than death, and a (spiritual and unceasing) joy that no earthly sorrow or suffering can take away.
Be a person of hope and faith for the long run. The world needs consistent faithful people. Your friends, your children, your grandchildren need you just to be an example of living with Hope and Expectation, looking beyond the cradle, beyond the cross and seeing the Crown of Salvation.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, may I never cease to hope in you and to trust in your promises. Inflame my zeal for your kingdom and increase my love for prayer, that I may never cease to give you praise and worship”.
Anna’s hope and trust in God did not waver but grew with age. What enabled Anna to persevere for so many years and through difficult times? She never ceased to give thanks to God each and every day. She worshiped God in daily prayer, and with fasting and intercession on behalf of her people. And she never ceased to cling to God’s word and to speak of his word to others to bring them encouragement and hope. She believed with hopeful expectation that she would one day see her Lord and Redeemer face to face. Anna is a model of persevering faith and hope to all who hunger for God and for his saving word.