DAY 20: THE GLORY OF THE LORD ACCORDING TO ANNA
Ana ajanga Kibuba sentsuwangshi
Ao Naga | Luke 2:36–38
Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
– Luke 2:38
Advent is here, the season of waiting with expectancy. As we turn to the gospels, the Israelites appear as a nation waiting for deliverance and the fulfilment of their deepest longings, for the Messiah who would vindicate them all! In Luke 2:25–38, we find two persons in particular, Simeon and Anna, known simply just for waiting—“waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25).
It is to Anna that we turn our attention here. Luke calls her a prophetess, one in the tradition of female prophets in the Old Testament, such as Miriam (Exodus 15:20) and Deborah (Judges 4:4), and also a forerunner of the role of female prophets in the early church (Acts 21:9). She was a descendant of a family from the Northern Kingdom, a daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. Bible commentators point out that she is the only one of note from the tribe of Asher mentioned in the Bible.
Anna became a widow after just seven years of marriage. Luke says she was eighty-four, though this may be read as the number of years she lived as a widow, and, therefore, she could have been older. Luke describes Anna’s lifetime work in just a few words: “She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying” (Luke 2:37). This is baffling to us! More than eight decades of this same routine, day in and day out? However, this brief episode provides insight into Anna’s long life and ministry.
The outcome of living such a devoted, pious life culminated for Anna on the day baby Jesus was brought to Jerusalem to be consecrated to the Lord by His parents, Joseph and Mary. Like watching a well–synchronized video clip, the account of Simeon and Anna seeing baby Jesus is awesome! Notice Simeon first: “Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts” (Luke 2:27). As Simeon took baby Jesus in his arms, he knew this was the promised one he had been waiting for. As he broke out in spontaneous praise, Anna appeared: “Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all …” (Luke 2:38). Like Simeon, Anna confirmed the awe, recognition, and significance of that encounter. With perfect timing, perfect understanding, they knew the Messiah had come! Waiting was not in vain. The years of preparation in anticipation had been rewarded. Indeed, isn’t this what Amos the Old Testament prophet said about how God reveals his secret plans in history to His humble servants who continually live in conscious awareness of His presence (Amos 3:7)?
So, like the shepherds that first Christmas night, Anna was filled with wonder and joy at Christ’s first coming. Indeed, the glory of the Lord was upon Anna as she broke out in thanksgiving! Then she went about speaking of Him to all who, like her, looked for the redemption of Jerusalem. The “pious remnant,” as they are called, were few but faithful, waiting for the Messiah. It would not be surprising if Anna knew them all through those many decades of ministry in the temple.
Anna symbolizes a bright beacon of hope for the “voiceless” women from my context. Gender issues, patriarchy’s strongholds, and women’s struggle to be heard are constant challenges in my part of the world. Anna, a woman—a widow at that—is seen, heard, recognized, and given equal standing alongside Simeon as the all–important links to verify and announce the good news of the arrival of the Saviour of the world! For both Simeon and Anna, their guiding motivation was to be constantly in tune with God’s Spirit all of their lives to fulfil God’s purposes.
Oh that we, too, will remain faithful and walk consistently in step with the Spirit to discern and recognize God’s ways as we eagerly wait in anticipation for Christ’s second coming! Amen.
Alongla Aier is the Langham Preaching Movement Coordinator for Nagaland (NE), India, serves as a mentor and facilitator for Langham Preaching in that area, and is Emeritus Professor of English and Communication at Oriental Theological Seminary (OTS) in Dimapur, India.