Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Being Like Anna

In Luke 2:22-40, the testimony of Christ's prophesied forthcoming shines through the duo of two elderly characters: Simeon and Anna. Both were prophetically gifted, full of the Holy Spirit (directly recognized with Simeon, indirectly implied with Anna), advanced in years yet unified in their steadfastness to proclaim salvation.

In verse 36, we are introduced to Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. Immediately, we are given a glimpse of her family background; however, in light of brief context, one must question why these past details are important enough to mention. Maybe Luke is offering the reader a clue in his opening presentation. If we bite the bait, take a trip down history lane and scope out an Old Testament equivalent, we will stumble upon Huldah, daughter of the high priest, Hilkiah (2 Kings 22), and likely sister of the prophet Jeremiah. Like Solomon, God filled Huldah with extravagant wisdom, enough to the point Hilkiah, among others, would seek the Lord's word from her. Interestingly, Huldah's name, derived from the Hebrew root, cheled, meaning "to glide swiftly", fittingly capturing her ability to discern the ways of God and voice prophecies concerning God's judgment. Her spiritual ministry foreshadowed that of Anna, as well as the passage of promise concerning the Holy Spirit's anointing upon women (Acts 2:17-18).

Luke also adds accent on Anna's age. Though not directly referenced, basic math combined with textual and narrative criticism, indicates Anna to be around 105 years old when she meets Jesus. Again, why does Luke resort back to her personal history? Perhaps Luke hoped to emphasize her spiritual discipline and her unceasing commitment to fast AND pray day and night. It’s hard to imagine any person who, score upon score upon score, would never compromise on such a calling. This level of devotion is nothing short of remarkable, especially when drawing cultural comparisons.

In this age, people are driven mad over finding love, social media, personal purpose, and accomplishing something "big", though often hindered by the hollow construct of vanity. Essentially, Modern American people have placed value on doing, instead of being, as was the case with first-century circum-Mediterranean culture. Even with 21st century Christians, an understanding of being tends to flow from our definition of doing. Although not all fall into this camp, the general pattern must not be ignored. The point is: Anna's life featured a righteous reverse of this modern trend. Her doing flowed from her being - from the God within her. Thus, her religiousness preserved itself in holiness, free from any artificiality.

Another takeaway from the story of Anna is God's faithfulness to reward the devout. In Anna’s case, her trust in the Lord opened the door for her to catch a visual of the fulfilled promise. The lesson here is faith merged with commitment renews faithfulness and maintains a posture of thanksgiving. In verse 38, the Bible says Anna kept giving the Lord thanks and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem. With such a description, one could very well dub Anna as the female version of John the Baptist – the key differences being timeline and mission field. Anna, like Simeon, was instrumental in shaping the spiritual landscape of the B.C. temple, whereas John the Baptist’s arena would be the world outside of it several decades later.


As the Christmas season concludes, be empowered by the importance of being like Anna. She may go unnoticed in the birth story, and her life may only be represented by five verses. Yet, her inclusion into one of the most well-known chapters in Scripture was not by mistake. Anna is arguably the most dynamite widow of the New Testament, maybe of all time. A model for the ages, her life has and will continue to echo the enduring exclaimation that Christ is indeed enough.

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